Issues

Filing: Louisiana Voucher Program Helps Desegregation Efforts

Expert says program has ‘no negative impact’ on desegregation

Ruby Bridges, right, who integrated Louisiana schools in 1960 under escort from U.S. Marshals, poses with former US Marshal Charles Burks, 91 / AP

A court filing on Thursday claimed to show that the racial imbalance of schools in Louisiana actually improved for 16 districts participating in the state’s school voucher program.

That claim rebuts charges by the Obama administration that the voucher program impeded desegregation efforts.

Documents filed by the state of Louisiana in federal court found that the voucher program has had "no negative effect on school desegregation." Of the 34 districts under federal desegregation orders, only four saw a "miniscule" increase in segregation, and 16 saw positive effects.

The Justice Department is suing Louisiana, seeking a permanent injunction against the program that grants vouchers to students so they can flee schools rated C, D, or F. They argue that the voucher program "impedes segregation" because some voucher recipients were in the racial minority at their failing school.

Louisiana filed a declaration by Christine Rossell, a political science professor at Boston University, who analyzed the school choice program, finding it had no negative effects on desegregation.

According to the analysis, districts cited by the DOJ as being negatively impacted by the voucher program were found to have the opposite effect.

For example, in its motion against the program, the DOJ said Tangipahoa Parish was harmed because an elementary school saw six white students leave with vouchers, "reinforcing the racial identity of the school as a black school."

Rossell found that the racial imbalance at schools in Tangipahoa Parish was actually reduced.

The voucher program also had zero effect on desegregation at St. Martin Parish, the other district cited by the DOJ.

Rossell’s lengthy resume is attached to the finding, which includes decades of experience working on desegregation cases.

She writes: "The conclusions and opinions I offer in this report are based on my 26 years of experience designing and analyzing school desegregation plans, 40 years of experience doing research on the impacts of school desegregation plans, 35 years of consulting in connection with educational equity court cases, 27 years of experience designing and analyzing opinion surveys, and 39 years of teaching courses on school desegregation, educational policy, public policy, and research methods."

The filing on Thursday was in response to the DOJ’s request for information on the program. A hearing on the case is set for Nov. 22.

President Obama traveled to Louisiana on Friday to tour the Port of New Orleans.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he invited the president to visit with children and parents participating in the voucher program, but Obama did not accept the offer.