New Orleans A federal judge in Louisiana took a hard shot to the gut to the conservative efforts to provide public money to help some parents pay for their children to escape public schools. He called it what it was: an effort to re-segregate the school system. The basis of the decision was equally clear. The judge found that the voucher effort to pay for movement to private and parochial schools was in clear violation of the long standing desegregation orders in the Tangipahoa Parish school district across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
The voucher program has moved money to more than 5500 students since being forced through the Louisiana legislature last year along with other so-called “school reforms,” most of which were meant to privatize the schools, give the state control, and re-segregate. There are 30 more parishes in Louisiana under desegregation orders, so count on them running into court quickly. The young gun, New Yorker running the state Department of Education swears the matter will be turned over on appeal, but that’s a long shot bet in my view.
The other artifice behind these rightwing moves has been to pretend that they were not illegally appropriating local school district tax dollars to move people from the district. They make this argument in the face of the fact that to fund their resegregation efforts, they lower the state contribution by almost exactly the amount of money they are giving the schools as part of the state contribution to public education, thereby in effect forcing the local money to “pay” for the vouchers. An op-ed columnist in the Baton Rouge Advocate eviscerated the Governor and his cronies several weeks ago for the transparent fraud involved in this maneuver. Now both teachers unions in Louisiana are about to have their day in court on an identical challenge to this misappropriation. I’d bet they will win there as well.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t work when it involves taking taxpayer money from citizens supporting the public school system to in fact destroy the very system they are funding. This is exactly what experts like Professor Diane Ravitch have been arguing eloquently along with many, many others around the country recently as the so-called reform effort is being exposed as simple gentrification via charters, privatization at large, and a return to separate and highly unequal.
Louisiana might finally be leading the effort back to public schools thanks to the courts!