Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday afternoon blasted the Obama administration’s bid to require that public school students in some school districts win the approval of a federal court before they can get a state voucher to attend a private school.
“I am angry about what Eric Holder is doing,” Jindal said, a reference to the U. S. attorney general, whose Justice Department filed the lawsuit.
The governor made his comments at a gathering called the “Defending the American Dream Summit” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Orlando, Fla.
The organization calls itself an advocate of limited government and a free market economy.
Jindal, who pushed for the statewide expansion of vouchers, used part of his 15-minute speech to sharply criticize last week’s action by the Justice Department.
The focus of the debate is the availability of vouchers, which are state-funded aid for students who attend public schools rated C, D or F to attend private schools if they meet income and other requirements.
About 8,000 students are getting the vouchers in the current school year.
But the Justice Department ignited controversy last week when it filed legal papers that said the vouchers risked upsetting federal desegregation orders.
It said the state has awarded vouchers to students in 22 school districts operating under desegregation mandates.
But Jindal said federal officials are trying to use rules designed to protect children and force them back into troubled public schools.
He said 100 percent of students who get the aid are from low-income families, 100 percent to C, D and F public schools and 90 percent are minorities.
Jindal said he and others have a message for Holder and the Obama administration.
“The American dream is alive and well,” he said. “We are going to fight for those children.”
State Superintendent of Education John White said earlier that 34 school districts in Louisiana operate under federal desegregation orders.
White said about 1,000 students who get the vouchers attend schools in those districts.
He said the most affected areas would be the Tangipahoa, St. John, Ouachita and Franklin parishes school systems.
Jindal said the federal action is emblematic of a president who trusts government more than people.
A hearing on the Justice Department’s request may be held on Sept. 18 at a federal court in New Orleans.