Society and Culture, Education

DOJ abandons attack on Louisiana school choice program

Image Credit: Ryan J. Reilly (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image Credit: Ryan J. Reilly (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder launched an attack on Louisiana scholarship program. Citing hypothetical concerns that the program might slightly impact the racial makeup of schools, the Department of Justice filed suit to disrupt the program.

The suit was fiercely attacked by Louisiana and national school choice advocates, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and House Republicans.  The rationale for the DOJ’s suit quickly started to unravel, as the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst pointed out just how minuscule the impact would actually be on racial impact.  It really came apart when two University of Arkansas scholars used Louisiana data to point out that the DOJ’s suit was premised on a fallacy; the movement of voucher students actually served to increase racial integration—not to decrease it, as the DOJ has alleged. Whoops.

This is one of those happy policy stories, where gratuitous, politicized federal overreach is beat back by principled advocacy, careful scrutiny of claims, and the thoughtful application of data. Now, DOJ is claiming it still wants to monitor the data on Louisiana vouchers.  As Jindal has noted, especially in light of the just-concluded federal harassment, this feels like it may be a ploy to tie the program up in red tape or otherwise hamper it.  Seems like it’s up to the DOJ, at this point, to prove it can monitor the data competently, in good faith, and in a nondisruptive manner.  We’ll see.

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