WashPost Editorial Slams Obama/Holder Justice Dept. for Blocking La. School Vouchers

The Washington Post is reliably liberal on just about every major political issue. But there are exceptions, and its stand for school vouchers programs as a way to lift disadvantaged kids out of a failing public school monopoly is one of them.

So it's not too surprising that the paper devoted an editorial on Monday to criticizing the Obama/Holder Justice Department for a lawsuit it's filed that is putting a halt -- temporarily at least -- to school vouchers in Louisiana. Even so, the newspaper has dropped the ball on bringing the public's attention to the underlying story. Aside from the September 2 editorial, the paper has virtually ignored the development in its news pages, with the only mention of the underlying controversy being reported in the August 25 paper in a national news roundup. Here's that item -- an AP brief -- in its totality:


LOUISIANA Justice Dept. sues state over vouchers

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana to stop the state from distributing school vouchers in districts that remain under desegregation court orders.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal called the department's action Saturday "shameful" and said President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. "are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools."

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the Justice Department says Louisiana distributed vouchers in 2012-13 to nearly 600 public school students in districts that are still under such orders, and "many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process."

The department said Louisiana has given vouchers this school year to students in at least 22 districts remaining under desegregation orders.

- Associated Press

While the Post editorial took the Obama administration to task for suing to halt vouchers in Louisiana, the editorial board avoided directly blaming President Obama or his Attorney General Holder, nordid it suggest partisan political motives for why the administration would stand in the way of vouchers, even though keeping teachers unions energized for the 2014 midterm elections is a plausible political calculus behind the decision.

What's more, the Post editorial board did not unequivocally call upon either Obama or Holder to personally reverse this decision, although the editorial -- excerpted in its entirety below -- did call on the federal government to "get out of the way" of vouchers in the Pelican State (emphasis mine):

NINE OF 10 Louisiana children who receive vouchers to attend private schools are black. All are poor and, if not for the state assistance, would be consigned to low-performing or failing schools with little chance of learning the skills they will need to succeed as adults. So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.

The Justice Department has petitioned a U.S. District Court to bar Louisiana from awarding vouchers for the 2014-15 school year to students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders, unless the vouchers are first approved by a federal judge. The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of school systems. A hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

There’s no denying the state’s racist history of school segregation or its ugly efforts in the late 1960s and early 1970s to undermine desegregation orders by helping white children to evade racially integrated schools. These efforts included funneling public money to all-white private schools. But the situation today bears no resemblance to those terrible days. Since most of the students using vouchers are black, it is, as State Education Superintendent John White pointed out to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “a little ridiculous” to argue that the departure of mostly black students to voucher schools would make their home school systems less white. Every private school participating in the voucher program must comply with the color-blind policies of the federal desegregation court orders.

The government’s argument that “the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration” becomes even more absurd upon examination of the cases it cited in its petition. Consider the analysis from University of Arkansas professor of education reform Jay P. Greene of a school that lost five white students through vouchers and saw a shift in racial composition from 29.6 percent white to 28.9 percent white. Another school that lost six black students and saw a change in racial composition from 30.1 percent black to 29.2 percent black. “Though the students . . . almost certainly would not have noticed a difference, the racial bean counters at the DOJ see worsening segregation,” Mr. Greene wrote on his blog.

The number that should matter to federal officials is this: Roughly 86 percent of students in the voucher program came from schools that were rated D or F. Mr. White called ironic using rules to fight racism to keep students in failing schools; we think it appalling.

Unfortunately, though, it is not a surprise from an administration that, despite its generally progressive views on school reform, has proven to be hostile — as witnessed by its petty machinations against D.C.’s voucher program — to the school choice afforded by private-school vouchers. Mr. White told us that from Day One, the five-year-old voucher program has been subject to unrelenting scrutiny and questions from federal officials. Louisiana parents are clamoring for the choice afforded by this program; the state is insisting on accountability; poor students are benefiting. The federal government should get out of the way.

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