Thirty senators led by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to justify his department’s lawsuit against Louisiana’s Scholarship Program that gives low-income students vouchers to escape failing schools.
The Justice Department’s petition argues that this could adversely affect racial balance at schools.
“We are concerned that the Department of Justice’s decision to prevent these needy children from obtaining a valuable education is not consistent with the pursuit of justice, but instead may be the result of improper, partisan motives,” the senators wrote to Holder today.
The Louisiana Scholarship Program grants vouchers of $4,500 — $3,000 less than what a public school in the state spends on a student each year. In 2012, after expanding the program statewide, 91 percent of scholarship children were minorities including 86 percent African-American.
“It seems to us that a program that rescues needy children from failing schools, gives families a chance to break the cycle of poverty and violence, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars each year is one that should be lauded by the federal government. Instead, the Justice Department is working to sabotage it. Shockingly, the Justice Department is doing so by targeting a small group of children based solely on the color of their skin,” the senators wrote, adding comments they’d received from parents thankful for the program.
“During the days of Jim Crow, some Louisiana school districts were placed under desegregation orders. The Justice Department argues that allowing a few students to escape their failing schools will change the racial composition in these covered school districts. For example, the Justice Department asks the court to block six needy African-American students from escaping their failing school, because their departure would change the school’s racial make-up from 30.1 percent to 29.2 percent African-American. Similarly, the Justice Department argues that the desegregation orders may be violated if five poor white students obtain a better education, because the school would go from 29.6 percent to 28.9 percent white. In each case, the Justice Department is targeting the children solely on the basis of their skin color: If the six African-American children were white, and the five white children were African-American, the Justice Department would not be trying to prevent them from receiving a good education,” the letter continues. “These children are not statistics. They are young kids, and every one of them deserves a safe, high-quality school and a chance at a bright future.”
A signatory on the letter, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), called the DOJ lawsuit “an outrageous attack on Louisiana parents and students.”
“Instead of allowing parents to make one of their most important choices – where to send their kids to school – the federal government is stepping in, and trapping students in failing schools to meet quotas,” Vitter said. “Education needs to be about giving all of our students the best possible opportunity, not about reaching federal quotas determined by some bureaucrat in Washington.”