While campaigning for further government intervention in the American educational system at a speech in Buffalo on August 22, President Obama proclaimed: “Higher education cannot be a luxury… Every American family should be able to get it.” But that seems far from what he believes when it comes to the black schoolchildren who attend failing schools in Louisiana.
Too many Louisiana families face the prospect of their children not being able to graduate from the lower grades with a decent education much less be able to move on to an affordable college or university. Yet while Obama played to the voting-age students in New York, the poor kids of the Bayou State and their families learned of a possible dead end in their educational progress at the hands of government lawyers.
On the same day as Obama was speaking in Buffalo, lawyers in his Justice Department were petitioning a federal court to torpedo Louisiana’s school choice plan. Using generations-old desegregation orders, the Obama Administration says that a $40 million voucher program — the program that helps black children in failing government-run schools move to private schools that may help to give them a fighting chance — instead creates a racial imbalance.
A hearing on the Obama Administration’s school choice challenge is expected on September 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
In 2008, state lawmakers created the Louisiana Scholarship Program to give scholarships to children in schools that receive evaluations of C, D or F. These scholarship, or vouchers, could be used to attend private institutions.
According to figures compiled by the editorial board of the Washington Post, 86 percent of the Louisiana scholarships were given to kids in schools that received Ds and Fs. Around nine of ten of the scholarships went to black students. Private schools that receive scholarship money must also adhere to the guidelines of the old desegregation orders.
It’s a far cry from the days when pro-segregation government officials tried to game the system and send public money to private schools with all-white enrollment. But this didn’t stop the Obama Administration from using the old orders as a cudgel against school choice.
This heavy-handed tactic does not sit well with Cherylyn Harley LeBon, co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network and a mother of two school-age children. Commenting on the Obama legal assault on school choice, Cherylyn said:
With the Department of Justice recently filing suit to end Louisiana’s voucher program, this White House is putting politics above the needs of African-Americans.
Even though nine out of ten students in the voucher program are black and all are from low-income families, Eric Holder’s lawyers want to send these children back to their failing public schools. Ninety percent of parents in New Orleans strongly support their school choice programs. More importantly, the plan — after a stipulation made by a prior court ruling and some work by Governor Bobby Jindal — doesn’t divert a penny for the vouchers from the public schools.
Sadly, politics prevails and supporting teachers’ unions is apparently more important than helping struggling families.
The sad truth is that these kids are fighting for a quality education, and the Obama Department of Justice is fighting against them.
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