Louisiana Scholarship Program Threatened by U.S. Department of Justice

March 6, 2014

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has continued its efforts to halt Louisiana's voucher program, says Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

In 2012, the state of Louisiana began the Louisiana Scholarship Program, providing full tuition scholarships to children of low-income families.

  • Children whose families earn below 250 percent of the poverty level and are enrolling in kindergarten, or who were assigned to public schools that received a rating of C or below from the state, can enroll to receive the scholarships.
  • This year, 12,000 children applied and nearly 5,000 are using the scholarships for private schools.
  • Of the 12,000, about 90 percent of the children are black.

Parents are thrilled with the program.

  • More than 93 percent of scholarship families are pleased with their children's academic progress.
  • A whopping 99.3 percent believe that the schools are safe -- unlike the schools in which they would otherwise be enrolled.

But the Justice Department filed a motion to enjoin the program in late August, saying that changing the racial composition of school districts would violate desegregation orders from decades ago.

The DOJ later withdrew its motion, but it has demanded detailed information from the state on the racial composition of the schools that voucher students are leaving and the composition of the schools to which the students are moving. Louisiana says that the sheer volume of information requested, combined with the litigation, threatens to destroy the program.

Notably, past Civil Rights-era decisions on which the Justice Department seems to be relying on in advocating for the abolition of the program dealt with state action that discriminated against blacks. In this situation, the scholarship program provides opportunities for black families to send their children to the best schools.

Source: Clint Bolick, "Will Minority Children Be Barred From Southern Schoolhouses Again?" Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2014.

 

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