Friday, September 6, 2013

Are Politics to Blame in the Attack on Ed Choice in Louisiana?

By Kevin P. Chavous

I have supported President Obama and known U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for many years and have trusted that their motives are genuine.

But I am now extremely troubled by the motives behind the Dept. of Justice's desegregation lawsuit against the Louisiana scholarship program. In effect, the suit claims that allowing low income Louisiana kids to leave failing public schools in favor of better private schools somehow violates federal desegregation orders issued decades ago.

Since the lawsuit was filed last week, many have speculated as to the motives behind it; why was it filed?

Earlier this week, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan was a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, discussing a wide range of education issues. When asked by guest host Susan Page about the DOJ lawsuit Secretary Duncan said he was “not familiar” with the lawsuit.  

Now, that is a little hard to believe considering this lawsuit has been widely discussed in a variety of media outlets. Anyone with even the slightest interest in education issues has probably run across a headline or two about the issue.

So what gives?

Secretary Duncan’s response demonstrates that DOJ's actions had nothing to do with what is best for our kids. If the lawsuit was rooted in the fact that students were not receiving a quality education or real injustice was being committed in the classroom, the Secretary of Education would have omething to say on the issue.

Rather, it is now clear that DOJ was motivated by politics, pure and simple.

From the start the Obama Administration has had a major issue with publicly funded private school choice programs. Budget-after-budget the President excludes providing adequate funding for the highly-successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, so it comes as really no shock that the administration would go on the attack against another successful educational choice program.

Unfortunately, it is that the students who are stuck in the political crossfire.

I have said for some time that we need to depoliticize education policy discussions in this country. The politics of education has done a disservice to far too many children trapped in bad schools.

The students receiving scholarships through the Louisiana program come from low-income families, unable to afford to send their child to a higher-performing school of their choice. Over 90 percent of families participating in the program are minority. The scholarships have given hope to families desperately in need of good schooling for their kids.

The futures of these children, and the opportunities available to them, should not be defined by their parents’ income, nor their race or ZIP code.

Nor should they be defined by the political machinations of the US Department of Justice, who is obviously not motivated to make sure these kids get the education that they deserve.

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