OCTOBER 30, 2013
In attempting to block Louisiana families’ access to vouchers, DOJ tells court it is “representing families’ interests”
Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation and well-known civil rights attorney Clint Bolick fired back, rejecting a claim from the Department of Justice that it has the best interests of Louisiana families in mind in its ongoing challenge to the state’s innovative school voucher program.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department asked a court to block the continued implementation of a voucher program in Louisiana parishes with standing federal desegregation orders, claiming that the program may “impede the desegregation process.” After public outcry, DOJ modified its stance, claiming that its primary objective is not to stop the program, but to facilitate data collection about the program. However, DOJ has yet to withdraw its original filing asking a court to block the program.
Represented by the Goldwater Institute, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a network of thousands of Louisiana families, as well as four individual families, asked a court last month to allow them to join the state in defending the voucher program. While the state has already agreed to the families’ request, DOJ asked a judge yesterday to not allow the families to join the state in defending the program, claiming it is fully capable of representing the families’ interests.
According to Bolick, this is a farce.
“The Justice Department is blocking the courthouse doors to parents who want to protect their right to educational opportunities,” said Bolick. “The Justice Department argues that it represents the interests of school choice families, but clearly it does not.”
The Louisiana program provides private school tuition vouchers to low-income Louisiana families who are assigned to failing schools. Over 90 percent of the program’s participants are minority students, with over 5,000 students participating in the program statewide. According to Bolick, DOJ’s maneuvers to terminate the program are in conflict with the spirit of the original desegregation order, of which enhanced educational opportunities for low-income students was an objective.
If DOJ prevails in its assault on this program, it could set troubling precedent for school reform programs throughout the country, where over 200 federal desegregation orders remain in effect. The motion for intervention is pending before U.S. District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle. The parties will present legal arguments on the substantive issues in the case next month.