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The Holder-Jindal Collision

The federal government attacks Louisiana school choice.

Sep 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 01 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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But as Jason Bedrick, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, put it in a blog post, DOJ cites just two examples as evidence the vouchers have reversed desegregation in public schools. The first, the predominantly black Independence Elementary in Tangipahoa Parish, lost five white students to other schools. The second, the predominantly white Cecilia Primary School in St. Martin Parish, lost six black students. The resulting changes in racial makeup, Bedrick calculates, were less than 1 percent in both schools. For DOJ, though, these changes “reversed much of the progress made toward integration.”

“Though the students,” Bedrick writes, “almost certainly would not have noticed a difference, the racial bean counters at DOJ see worsening segregation.”

Furthermore, school choice proponents argue the data indicate voucher-accepting private schools are often less segregated than the public school systems surrounding them. Studies comparing voucher schools with public schools in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington all showed higher integration in the private schools.

“Voucher programs are achieving integration in private schools voluntarily,” says Robert Enlow, CEO of the Friedman Foundation.

For Jindal, DOJ’s use of civil rights laws to fight the school choice effort misses the point.

“I think it’s ironic the Obama administration and the Holder Department of Justice would actually try to use our civil rights laws and the same protections that were put in place to help protect minority kids to actually try to force them to stay in failing public schools,” he says. “I think this is an abomination. I think it’s ridiculous.”

The state has until September 10 to respond to the motion, and Jindal says his lawyers are still discussing the best path forward to maintain the voucher program for the 2014-2015 school year and beyond. With education reform as the two-term governor’s signature achievement and a potential presidential run for him in the next cycle, Jindal appears to welcome the fight. There’s another reason, too, one that turns DOJ’s segregation argument on its head. “I think education is the civil rights issue of our day,” says Jindal.

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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