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Dept. of Justice Case Against Louisiana School Voucher Program Back in Court June 1

May 20, 2015

New Orleans—In a case with national implications for parental choice programs in hundreds of school districts that still are subject to federal desegregation decrees, on June 1 Louisiana families will be before the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to challenge the Department of Justice’s effort to exercise federal oversight authority of Louisiana’s successful school voucher program.

The Department of Justice is using an unrelated, decades-old desegregation case to assert federal jurisdiction over the state program. When it initially filed the case, DOJ asked for an injunction to block students in school districts under desegregation orders from using vouchers. DOJ has backed off its request for an injunction, but is pressing ahead with its case, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the school options for Louisiana scholarship families.

“This has to be one of the most perverse attempts to use a desegregation order ever,” said Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, which is representing the Black Alliance for Educational Options and voucher families. “Desegregation orders were imposed on school districts decades ago to ensure black children had access to an equal education. Now, through this voucher program, which gives low-income, mostly minority children a way out of failing schools, the promise of giving all students access to a decent education is being made real. The Department of Justice’s actions in this case threaten educational opportunity for Louisiana’s most disadvantaged students. That’s shameful.”

The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program was created in 2012. The statewide program provides private school tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line and who otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. In the 2013-14 school year, nearly 6,800 students were awarded scholarships, a 20 percent increase from the year before. More than 85 percent of the children receiving scholarships that year were African American, nearly twice their representation among the Louisiana public school population.

A Louisiana District Court Judge ruled last year that the Department of Justice can require the state to turn over to the federal government detailed records and information about students using the voucher program. On June 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in an appeal of that decision.

Families using the school vouchers will be represented by attorney Clint Bolick from the Goldwater Institute. Bolick argued and won the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case before the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of school vouchers.


Oral arguments in Brumfield v. Dodd, the Department of Justice case against the Louisiana school voucher program


June 1, 2015, between approximately 11:00 a.m. and Noon


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 600 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana


About the Goldwater Institute The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.



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