In November, the Obama Justice Department dropped a lawsuit aimed at stopping a school voucher program in Louisiana. The Louisiana Scholarship Program is intended to give students in failing public schools a chance to attend better schools, including private ones. Justice tried to block the program on the basis that it may have violated a 1975 federal desegregation order. The case began to heat up when Republican governor Bobby Jindal, joined by some parents of students (chiefly minorities) who had benefited from the voucher program, began a defense in the courts. Justice then filed a motion contesting the parents' standing in the case.
However, when U.S. district court judge Ivan Lemelle handed down his ruling in November, he revealed that the Justice Department had "abandoned" its efforts to end the voucher program. "We are pleased that the Obama Administration has given up its attempt to end the Louisiana Scholarship Program with this absurd lawsuit," Jindal said at the time.
But Justice did not completely fold, requesting that the court allow a federal review process of the voucher program. In a November 22 hearing, the judge ordered the two sides to file proposals to modify the process for information sharing with respect to the Louisiana Scholarship Program.
Tuesday evening, those proposals were filed. Read DOJ's filing here and the state's counter-filing here. Jindal wasted no time in harshly criticizing the Justice Department's plan. According to the governor's office:
...President Obama’s Justice Department is not backing down from its proposal to institute a 45-day period where it can review and have veto power over each individual award. Furthermore, the Justice Department is now requesting information on the racial makeup of Louisiana private schools.
Jindal pulled no punches in his characterization of Justice's position:
I am also shocked to learn that the Justice Department is now asking for the state to provide an analysis of the racial composition of our states private schools. The federal government’s new request is a frightening overreach of the federal government and shows it knows no bounds.
President Obama’s Department of Justice has admitted it cannot prove that Louisiana school choice is violating desegregation efforts, yet it continues to seek the ability to tell a parent their child cannot escape a failing school because their child is not the "right" race.
The Department of Justice proposal reeks of federal government intrusion and proves the people in Washington running our federal government are more interested in skin color than they are in education.
The governor's statement also provided a description of the proposal filed by the state of Louisiana, which would not eliminate the federal role, but would minimize Justice's involvement and shift the burden of proof of discrimination to the DOJ:
The State of Louisiana’s proposal offers to share data about applicants, awards, and public school enrollment with the Justice Department for the 2014-15 school year. This would mean that, in total, the Justice Department would have three years of data about the Scholarship program and its effect on public school enrollment, as the state has already provided data and analysis for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. The State proposes that once three years of data has been provided to the Justice Department, the burden should be on them to prove implementation of the Scholarship Program violates law or the Constitution. The Justice Department to this point has failed to prove the Scholarship Program has impeded the Brumfield order.
The Justice Department has not yet issued a statement about the proposal filings.