Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
LOUISIANA FAMILIES TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: OUR KIDS’ SCHOOLING IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS
Having fought their way into the courtroom last month to defend Louisiana’s school voucher program against a legal attack by the US Department of Justice, a coalition of Louisiana parents is now asking a judge to terminate the proceedings altogether.
Louisiana voucher families and the Black Alliance for Educational Options filed a motion Monday, asking federal Judge Ivan Lemelle a federal district judge to dismiss the proceedings because it lacks jurisdiction, arguing that the state’s popular voucher program poses no constitutional violations and is therefore not in conflict with a longstanding federal order prohibiting state assistance to segregated schools.
These Louisiana voucher families were previously kept out of the ongoing DOJ challenge, because the same federal district judge found that they had no specific interest in defending the program their kids use since the program’s existence was not threatened by DOJ. The 5th Circuit reversed that ruling last month, noting that DOJ continues to leave the door open for orders that could regulate the state voucher program out of existence, including a student-by-student approval process where the federal government could literally approve or deny a single student for a voucher based on a racial balance test.
The State strongly resisted such orders, and last month the court ruled that the Justice Department would be entitled only to limited information about the students and schools affected by the program. But so long as the court retains jurisdiction, it leaves the door open to more extensive orders.
Nearly forty years after the federal desegregation order in question began, Louisiana has been held up as one of the leading states in closing the black-white education gap. Louisiana children are eligible for the state voucher program if their family income falls below 250 percent of the federal poverty line or if they are assigned to failing district schools. About 90 percent of the students in the program are minority children.
According to Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, which is representing the families, what DOJ alleges in this case could not be further from the truth.
“This program is an embodiment and realization of Brown v. Board of Education, giving thousands of black children an opportunity to access high-quality education,” said Bolick. “A cloud of uncertainty will hover over this program so long as the Justice Department’s legal attack is allowed to proceed.”
The motion filed by the Goldwater Institute argues that since the program is not alleged to violate the U.S Constitution, existing federal court decrees don’t apply to it, and therefore the DOJ lacks any grounds to seek court orders affecting the program. The implications in this case are huge, as over 200 school districts across the country still operate under standing desegregation orders, and a DOJ win in Louisiana could undermine educational choice and progress nationally.
To schedule an interview with Clint Bolick, please contact Charles Siler at (602) 633-8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Goldwater Institute has an in-house VideoLink studio for rapid cable hook-up if needed.