In 2012, as a part of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program (known colloquially as Louisiana’s “school voucher” program), Governor Bobby Jindal legally obligated his administration to guarantee the program complied with federal desegregation orders. “The 2012 state law expanding the voucher program statewide acknowledged that the program was ‘subject to any court-ordered desegregation plan in effect, for a particular school district,” Education Weekly recently reported.
And this should have been easy. It just required the Louisiana Department of Education to share public records with the Department of Justice: Where are the schools? And who are the students?
For some reason, however, the Louisiana Department of Education was incapable of providing this very basic documentation to the United States Department of Justice, and the DoJ asked over and over again, for months. (Why am I not surprised?) When the DoJ finally received a response from the Jindal administration, it didn’t take long for them to realize that they were missing data on nearly 20% of voucher students. Quoting from the Department of Justice’s memorandum (bold mine):
In 2012-2013, the State awarded publicly funded vouchers to nearly 600 public school students residing in or attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders, and many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process. The State did not consult with or obtain authorization from the federal courts overseeing the applicable desegregation orders before awarding any of the vouchers. As of the date of this filing, the State has awarded vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year to students in at least 22 districts operating under federal desegregation orders, many of which may impede the desegregation process in those districts, without authorization from the appropriate federal court.
Footnote: As of this filing, the State has not provided the United States with a complete list or number of scholarship awardees to date for the 2013-2014 school year. The State recently provided a partial list of school districts in which the awardees (to date) reside.
At this time, the United States is not asking that this Court enjoin the State from awarding any school vouchers. With respect to students attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders, however, the United States requests that this Court permanently enjoin the State from issuing any FUTURE (emphasis added) voucher awards to these students UNLESS AND UNTIL IT OBTAINS AUTHORIZATION FROM THE FEDERAL COURT OVERSEEING THE APPLICABLE DESEGREGATION CASE (emphasis added).
Even if you reject the argument that Louisiana’s voucher schools are significantly worse, on the whole, than its public schools, even if you believe that federal desegregation orders are antiquated and counterproductive, even if you fully embrace the privatization of our education system, the simple truth is, no matter how you cut it: Governor Bobby Jindal is a liar. He and his administration were non-compliant and derelict in their duties. He’s lied about the Department of Justice’s motion; he’s lied about his voucher program; he’s lied about desegregation orders, and perhaps most shamefully, he’s attempting to capitalize politically from these lies.
Remember, the Department of Justice isn’t attempting to shut down Jindal’s voucher program. The Department of Justice isn’t asking for a court to revoke vouchers already awarded to students. No, instead, the Department of Justice is asking for Bobby Jindal and John White to comply with the law and provide the federal government with the requisite information needed to authorize compliance with court-ordered desegregation in thirteen school districts, information that, thus far, they have refused to adequately furnish.
I’ve been covering Bobby Jindal for years, but I’ve been reluctant to call him a flat-out liar. This, however, is too blatant to ignore. So I’ll say it again for emphasis: Bobby Jindal is a liar. Quoting from a report filed by the National Press Club (bold mine):
Bobby Jindal, Republican governor of Louisiana, called a recent Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit to block Louisiana’s school-voucher system “cynical, immoral and hypocritical” at a National Press Club Newsmaker Sept. 18.
The lawsuit would block the program, which provides vouchers that parents can use to pay for schools of their choice in Louisiana parishes that operate under federal desegregation orders. (Note: Not true; the lawsuit only seeks to block the future dispersement of public dollars for school vouchers in parishes that do not provide documentation ensuring compliance with the law).
The governor termed the suit cynical because it would use desegregation laws designed to protect minority children to trap those children in failing schools. Ninety percent of the children in the voucher program are minorities, mostly low income, Jindal said. (Note: Not true; neither Governor Jindal nor Superintendent White have ever provided documentation that voucher schools perform better than public schools).
The suit is immoral because children only grow up once and it is immoral to tell them to wait for gradual improvement in schools, Jindal said.
Jindal found the suit hypocritical because Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have the means to send their own children to schools they choose while the administration’s lawsuit would prevent low-income Louisiana parents from having the same privilege.
A day after making these remarks in Washington, D.C., Jindal rolled out a brand-new website, launched a $500,000 television ad buy, and asked supporters to sign onto a petition. Not surprisingly, Jindal’s waging a war against a Trojan horse, and he’s spending a ton of money hoping that his supporters are dumb enough (or unquestionably loyal enough) to reflexively agree with him on anything that appeals to their dislike of President Obama (who, incidentally, is more popular in Louisiana than Governor Jindal).
Here’s Jindal’s $500,000 commercial, coming soon to a station near you (at least those of you in Louisiana):
And here’s what this commercial proves: Bobby Jindal thinks the people of Louisiana are stupid, and he thinks he can resurrect his own political credibility by lying about the Department of Justice’s motion and lying about the Affordable Care Act.
A few years ago, Jindal’s response to President Obama’s first-ever address to a joint session of Congress was panned, in large part, because Jindal came across like a bad facsimile of Mister Rogers, a “golly-gee” huckster who spoke to the American public with the cadence of an overly-earnest preschool teacher.
Bobby Jindal, the cheerful “preexisting condition”:
“The know-it-alls in Washington think they know better than Louisiana parents,” he says in his recent ad. “Kind of like with Obamacare, when they tried to put the IRS in charge of our healthcare.”
Of course, the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) doesn’t “put the IRS in charge of our healthcare,” and Jindal is, once again, lying. Flat-out lying.
But he paid Timmy Teepell a bunch of money for this ad, and they likely spent weeks, if not months, strategizing on how to best maximize the Department of Justice’s motion for political gain. Quoting from Jindal’s new website (bold mine):
The Civil Rights movement 50 years ago was about getting disadvantaged kids into better schools.
(Note: That’s a radically, insultingly reductionistic and patently self-aggrandizing understanding of the Civil Rights movement; it was about much more than “getting disadvantaged kids into better schools”).
Now President Obama and Attorney General Holder have warped it so much that they are filing a civil rights lawsuit to force Louisiana kids OUT of better schools and back into failing schools.
For generations, the government has forced parents to send their child to a failing school. In Louisiana, parents finally have a choice to send their child to a better school.
But President Obama and Eric Holder have filed suit to force Louisiana parents to go to a federal judge to get approval about where they can send their child to school.
The Department of Justice suit is trying to block the Scholarship Program by using the same rules that were set up to prevent discrimination against minority children.
It’s perplexing that rules made up to fight racism are now being used to keep minority students in failing schools.
This action by the President and Attorney General boils down to pure politics.
No one in their right mind could argue that their actions will help these kids. It’s just not possible to make that argument.
They are putting their allegiance to government unions ahead of the needs of students. They are doing what they always do – taking the “Washington knows better than Louisiana” approach to government.
Giving every single child – no matter their race or their income – the opportunity to get a great education is a moral imperative and we must fight this suit and ensure Louisiana children continue to have an equal opportunity of education.
But here’s what Gary Orfield told Education Weekly (bold mine):
Gary Orfield, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he considered the state’s response to the motion “99 percent political” and that the Justice Department is on very strong ground.
“While desegregation orders are in effect, you can’t take actions that undermine those orders while under the supervision of a federal court,” said Mr. Orfield, an expert on and longtime advocate for desegregation. “I think the reaction of the state is completely out of proportion with what the Justice Department is proposing.”
His administration didn’t accidentally withhold information for months from the Department of Justice; Jindal was practically begging to be sued.
As the least popular Governor in the country and the least popular Governor in Louisiana history, Jindal is now hoping he can buy and lie his way back, arguing that the DoJ’s motion on desegregation compliance amounts to a federal takeover of Louisiana’s entire public education system, suggesting that Obamacare somehow puts the IRS in control of healthcare, tying these two ridiculous lies together thematically (and with background music), and banking on the hope that the people of Louisiana are none the wiser.
It’s cynical; it’s immoral; it’s hypocritical, but maybe, just maybe, it will sell.