The Department of Justice and teacher unions are opposed to the Louisiana voucher program that allows students to attend private schools using public money.  Entitled the Louisiana Scholarship Program, it uses tax dollars to fund private school attendance. Low-income students who attend failing public schools are able to use these vouchers.  The Department of Justice is suing Louisiana in federal court in an attempt to block the 2014/2015 voucher program, which targets schools under federal desegregation orders.    According to
Danielle Dreilinger
of the Picayune Times, students from 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are using vouchers this year.  This has grown from the previous year where 570 students participated in the Scholarship Program/voucher system.

The Department of Justice argues that the loss of these students in public schools does more harm than good because the racial balance is negatively affected.  Dreilinger cites a federal analysis that found an increase in racial imbalance at many schools due to the voucher program.  One such cited statistic is the loss of five (yes 5!) white students who elected to attend private schools with their vouchers.  This, states the Department of Justice, has “reinforced the racial identity of the school as a black school.”  John White, the State Education Superintendent, maintains that most vouchers are used by black students and states that “It’s a little ridiculous” to argue that the voucher is making schools less white.

What is the problem with this picture?  Why aren’t we investing in our public schools and improving them to the degree that, when given a chance to leave, students have no desire to do so.  Why do we use our fingers to count the number of white students at a school and claim it is integrated?  Why is being labeled a “black school” seen as a deficit?

It’s time we stop this band-aid approach to deeply-rooted problems.  Let’s take a look at educational models that work and build an educational system that inspires and motivates all children to apply learning to improve our communities.

By Marisol Rexach, Ph.D. in Education Student


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