Vouchers still big issue in court
BATON ROUGE - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is changing its tune concerning Louisiana's voucher program.
The DOJ wants more oversight of who is awarded the scholarships. They plan to discuss the concerns during a hearing over the controversial vouchers Friday. But, the federal government has dropped the legal fight that would disband Governor Bobby Jindal's education plan.
The Louisiana Department of Education, according to the amended petition, would have to take three steps for federal compliance: send the federal government a list of those applying for vouchers 45-days before the vouchers are awarded to the parents, a detailed reporting on all the students across the state awarded the vouchers by October 15th followed by a detailed report of race and personal information including background, and annually do an analysis by November 1st as to the impact on desegregation orders.
According to State Superintendent of Education, John White, "The enrollment process would be delayed by a month and a half because the DOJ wants to know the recipients of the scholarships 45-days in advance. That's before the parents are notified of the award.
White says, "It means the parents would end up not getting their choice of school until after the school year has actually ended, so parents would leave the school year without even knowing which school they had actually been assigned to."
White says that the data requests pertaining to desegregation is not only for those parishes that have orders still on the books, but to all parishes in the state.
In August, the DOJ filed to have the vouchers stopped on the basis they violated federal desegregation orders in certain school districts. Shortly after the filing, Governor Jindal took to the national airwaves to say it was an attack on poor students in failing schools trying to get a better education.
Governor Jindal responded to the proposed changes saying, "The updated Department of Justice request reeks of federal government intrusion that would put a tremendous burden on the state, along with parents and teachers who want to participate in school choice."
It's feeling echoed by the state superintendent who said, "putting up red tape and cost into process, putting up operational hurdles in the way of parents choice is totally unnecessary and for them to assert that authority I think we can't just forgive and forget. This isn't as bad as what they were doing before, let's call it for what it is, it's a power grab."