Jindal questions voucher report

White and black students enrolled in Louisiana’s voucher program are likely to be assigned to a school in which their race is overwhelmingly represented in the student body, according to an expert’s report filed in the federal lawsuit challenging the program.

“It appears that the State has opportunities to assign students in the Voucher Program to Voucher Schools in a manner that lessens segregation, though it has not done so to date,” according to the brief written by the U.S. Department of Justice that accompanied the expert’s report. While the report, filed Monday, also says the impact on segregation could be minimal, the expert could not tell for sure, largely because the state failed to provide enough information.

So, despite appearances, the federal government stated that no conclusions could be drawn about whether the Jindal administration has exacerbated racial segregation with its program that allows some low-income students who had attended failing public schools to use taxpayer dollars to help pay tuition at private schools. Nearly 6,800 students have enrolled in private schools using public money through what the administration calls the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

The federal government said in its brief that U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, of New Orleans, should carefully examine the state’s data to determine if the voucher program promotes desegregated schools. Lemelle has ordered the state and federal governments to develop some of sort process to monitor enrollment through the voucher program.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday in a prepared statement that the Justice Department report includes no evidence showing the voucher program has violated court orders to desegregate public schools.

“Yet the Obama administration is also continuing to suggest that the government should determine if a student is the ‘right’ race before parents can choose a school for their children,” Jindal said. “The federal government’s latest report shows just how far federal bureaucrats are willing to go to control the choices of Louisiana parents.”

The analysis by Erica Frankenberg, of Pennsylvania State University, found that more than 60 percent of the black students who received a voucher were assigned to a school that is more than 90 percent black. At the same, only 5.5 percent of the white voucher students were sent to schools in which more than 90 percent of the student body was black. More than 40 percent of the white voucher students were assigned to schools that were more than 90 percent white.

Jindal responded: “The Department’s report shows that in 15 public schools, just one percent of the state’s total, the racial composition of the student body may have changed by a miniscule amount. Never mind that nearly 7,000 low-income, mostly minority students are now learning in the school of their families’ choosing thanks to this program.”