The Justice Department may be the last major American institution that values racial integration for the sake of integration. Its lawyers have worked to encase aging federal school-desegregation orders in cast iron while families—both white and black—have sought more flexibility, quality schools, and choices as to where their children will attend.
DOJ attorneys may tolerate some flexible plans aimed at voluntary desegregation, such as magnet schools and other forms of public-school choice, but there’s one form of choice it seems the Obama Administration and its legal beagles will not accept: private-school vouchers.
Late last week, lawyers with the department’s Civil Rights Division petitioned a federal judge in Louisiana to stop the Bayou State’s new voucher program from spreading throughout the thirty-plus districts operating under federal desegregation orders. During the 2012-13 school year, Louisiana awarded vouchers to nearly 600 students from these districts, and DOJ asserts that their exit caused thirty-four public schools in thirteen districts to stray from “the desired degree of student racial diversity.”
To regain that “desired degree,” the department wants vouchers prohibited in court-supervised districts, unless the cognizant judge grants permission. That may be in keeping with the Obama Administration’s hostility to private-school choice, but it sends education policy into a time warp.
For starters, the voucher program is popular with families. Participation in the program’s second year has nearly doubled to about 8,000 students, and it boasts a 93 percent satisfaction rate among first-year participants. It’s hard to find that level of delight...