BAEO Parents Win Case to Protect School Voucher Program in Louisiana
In a case with national implications for parental choice programs in hundreds of school districts that still are subject to federal desegregation decrees, today the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice can't limit enrollment in a state private school scholarship program.
The Department of Justice was attempting to use an unrelated, decades-old desegregation case to assert federal jurisdiction over the state program. When it initially filed the case, DOJ asked for an injunction to block students in school districts under desegregation orders from using vouchers. DOJ backed off its request for an injunction, but pressed ahead with its case, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the school options for Louisiana scholarship families.
In the 2-1 decision written by Judge Edith Jones, the court referred to the Department of Justice's tactics as "disingenuous," purporting merely to seek information and enforce desegregation while "imposing a vast and intrusive reporting regime on the State without any finding of unconstitutional conduct." The decision also called the process as "burdensome, costly, and endless."
In 2012, BAEO along with several education advocacy organizations, pushed for the expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program to empower low-income families with the same opportunity as more affluent
parents already have--the financial resources to send their child to
the school of their choice. The statewide program provides private school tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line and who otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. In the 2013-14 school year, nearly 6,800 students were awarded scholarships, a 20 percent increase from the year before. More than 85 percent of the children receiving scholarships that year were African American, nearly twice their representation among the Louisiana public school population.
Read the full opinion below.