As part of its efforts to boost educational opportunities for disadvantaged children, last year Louisiana enacted the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program. The statewide program provides tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line whose children otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. This year, roughly 8,000 children are using vouchers to attend private schools. Among those, 91% are minority and 86% would have attended public schools with D or F grades.
Attorney General Eric Holder argues the program runs afoul of desegregation orders, which operate in 34 Louisiana school districts. By potentially altering the racial composition of those schools by taking minority children out of failing public schools, the Justice Department asserts the program "frustrates and impedes the desegregation process." It has asked the federal court to forbid future scholarships in those districts until the state requests and receives approval in each of the 22 or more cases that might be affected. It seeks an injunction in Brumfield v. Dodd, a case filed nearly 40 years ago challenging a program that provided state funding for textbooks and transportation for private "segregation academies," to which white students were fleeing to avoid integration. Since 1975, private schools have had to demonstrate that they do not discriminate in order to participate in that program.
The Louisiana Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program restricts participation to private schools that have met the Brumfield nondiscrimination requirements. The program further requires private schools to admit students on a random basis. Thus the program clearly complies with Brumfield. And the Brumfield court has no jurisdiction over the desegregation decrees to which the Justice Dept. seeks to subject the voucher program.
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Last step: District Court denied parents’ challenge to federal jurisdiction over the Scholarship Program
Next step: Appeal to the Fifth Circuit requesting end to federal jurisdiction over the Scholarship Program
Our principle goal in this lawsuit is to prevent the DOJ from using desegregation decrees to hinder Louisiana's school choice program. A successful outcome will ensure that the federal government does ever again or anywhere use instruments intended to create educational opportunities to limit educational opportunities.
District Court Intervention (9/30/2013)
Memo Response to Court's Questions (11/6/2013)
Opening Brief (1/31/2014)
5th Circuit Order Granting Intervention (4/10/2014)
Motion to Vacate District Court Order (5/5/2014)
Clint Bolick is the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. He has extensive success before trial judges and appellate courts. He has won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named as a Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by American Lawyer magazine.
Jon Riches is an attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. He litigates in areas of taxpayer rights, public union and pension reform, government transparency, and school choice, among others. Prior to joining the Goldwater Institute, Jon served on active duty in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. While on active duty, Jon represented hundreds of clients, litigated dozens of Court-Martial cases, and advised commanders on a vast array of legal issues.