Late last week the Obama/Holder Justice Department filed a lawsuit in federal court which could hold up school vouchers for disadvantaged, predominantly African-American, kids in Louisiana. The school vouchers could "impede the desegregation process" in the state's public schools, the Justice Department reportedly claims in the lawsuit. For his part, as the Associated Press reported, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) denounced the lawsuit as "shameful" and complained that the president and his attorney general were "trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools." What's more, the leader of the Black Alliance for Educational Options has also criticized the lawsuit.
Yet a search of Nexis found no stories about this lawsuit by any of the Big Three broadcast networks. The story was completely omitted from the pages of The New York Times, and Sunday's Washington Post only briefly covered it by running a short AP news brief on page A3. In an editorial yesterday, the Wall Street Journal slamming the Obama/Holder DOJ, noting that "90% of the beneficiaries" of the voucher program would be black:
Our guess—confirmed by sources in Louisiana—is that this lawsuit isn't really about integration. It's about helping the teachers union repeal the voucher law by any legal means, and the segregation gambit is the last one available. Justice gives this strategy away when it claims "jurisdiction over Louisiana" even for vouchers for students in districts without desegregation orders.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana has emerged as a leader in school reform, with city-wide charter schools in New Orleans and now statewide vouchers for the poor. A black Attorney General ought to be applauding this attempt to fulfill MLK's dream of equal educational opportunity. His lawsuit turns racial justice on its head.
But it's not just the reliably conservative Journal editorial board that is critical of the Holder lawsuit. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune's website reported yesterday morning:
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the leader of a prominent national black education group says school desegregation orders might no longer be useful. Ken Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, was responding to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit charging Louisiana's school voucher program hurts desegregation efforts.
Today, Campbell said, educational excellence is more important for racial progress than equity in a given school. "We can't ignore the kind of history of efforts to stop or block integration in schools in the South in the '60s and '70s," he said. But he added: "I think in 2013 we have to have a very different viewpoint in some regards.
"In the name of racial harmony or racial integration, we're going to assign kids to failing schools? These aren't easy issues."
The Black Alliance for Educational Options has been the loudest institutional voice in support of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which lets low-income children in C-, D- and F-graded schools attend participating private schools at taxpayer expense. The group held a news conference Tuesday morning in Amite City to urge the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit.
He said it's unjust to put up roadblocks to vouchers. Doing so, he said, essentially tells the state it must make poor black children stay in schools that rich children can leave. After all, if they had the money, those families could choose private school and disrupt integration on their own.
Nor did Campbell, who lives in Ascension Parish, see a problem with some Louisiana voucher schools being 100 percent black. The real question, he said, is what society's goals should be and how it gets there. "I don't think our ultimate end is just to have racially integrated schools," he said. "I think our ultimate aim is to have quality schools."
Campbell's group released a report in July showing black voters in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi wanted more options in education, including charter schools and voucher programs. Almost three quarters of New Orleans respondents said they would rather not send their children to their current public schools.
Giving families the ability to move their children out of the local school "is a huge way to empower them," Campbell said, "because if I have options, I have power."
Options do equal power, and a lawsuit blocking those options means the Obama administration is working to disempower poor African-Americans parents and students. That, however, is a narrative the liberal media would rather not touch, especially when they're seeking to give President Obama gauzy coverage in light of the festitivies marking the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech.