BATON ROUGE, La. – In an op-ed column published Wednesday, National Review editor Rich Lowry criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for his recent decision to sue the state of Louisiana over its school voucher program.
In the suit filed Saturday, Holder claimed the state’s voucher program is leading to less diverse public schools.
“The Justice Department petition harkens back to a 40-year-old desegregation case involving state-aided white flight to private schools,” Lowry wrote in a column published by Oregon Live. “That case led to a court order forbidding Louisiana from providing assistance to private schools, meant to frustrate desegregation.”
But segregated schools are not the issue in 2013. Finding schools that properly educate children is the challenge.
The statewide voucher program, spearheaded by Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal, allows low-income students in failing schools to receive public money to attend better performing private schools. Students must come from families living below 250 percent of the poverty rate and be enrolled in a school receiving a C, D or F grade from the state in order to qualify.
The program is immensely popular, with roughly 8,000 students participating this fall, the overwhelming majority of them African-American. These kids and their parents seem to care more about the quality of the school than the racial composition of its student body. Shouldn’t that be the bottom line?
“None of that is relevant to the Justice Department, which seeks to block the vouchers unless they are subject to judicial pre-approval in districts under the old court order,” according to Lowry. “It claims that affected schools ‘achieved or were close to achieving the desired degree of student racial diversity, and the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward desegregation.’”
So the Justice Department is saying racial diversity in schools is more important than quality instruction. It doesn’t matter if kids can’t read or write, just as long as they attend a racially-balanced institution.
Besides, Holder’s diversity argument will prove to be false over time, according to Lowry.
“A review of the research literature by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice notes that almost every empirical study finds that ‘school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools.’” he wrote. “Since the advent of a voucher program in Milwaukee, the city’s private schools are only 35 percent white, whereas they used to be 75 percent white.
“At the end of the day, the federal enmity to school choice is driven less by racial justice than by the teachers unions, whose answer to poor kids stuck in rotten public schools is always simple and direct: ‘Stay.’”
In other words, Holder is carrying the water for his political friends in the teachers unions. And he’s willing to sacrifice quality education to do so.