State files motion on voucher dispute

The state on Thursday filed a motion aimed at slowing arguments set for Sept. 18 on the U. S. Department of Justice’s bid to put new restrictions on the ability of some public school students to get vouchers.

State officials need more time to gather data, attorneys said.

The U.S. Justice Department last month asked a federal court to decide whether children attending school in Louisiana school districts under federal desegregation orders should receive vouchers to attend private schools.

Federal officials contend the vouchers could upset the desegregation process.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has accused the Obama administration of trying to prevent students from leaving troubled public schools. Thursday’s court motion is a followup to that argument.

In their bid for more time, attorneys for the state said some voucher students have until Sept. 11 to register for school, and schools have until the end of October to provide their enrollment numbers.

Vouchers are state aid for students who attend public schools rated C, D or F, and who meet other conditions, to attend private schools.

Jindal and other backers say the aid offers students trapped in poor schools a way out.

Critics say vouchers drain vital dollars from traditional public schools.

Attorneys for the state also said there is no urgency for a district court to answer the federal request, since it applies to future voucher awards.

“The state will not even begin to receive applications for vouchers awards for the 2014-15 school year until mid-January, 2014,” the motion says.

The action is pending in the Eastern District Court in New Orleans before U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R Lemelle.

State Superintendent of Education John White said earlier that the federal request would affect about 1,000 of the 8,000 students who get vouchers now.