Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday invited President Obama to travel to the Bayou State to meet with the parents of the students who are benefiting from a school voucher program that is now the target of a federal government desegregation lawsuit.
The Republican governor is considering a run for the White House in 2016 and has asked the Justice Department to reconsider its legal opposition to a school voucher program that gives some students from low-income families the chance to escape troubled local public schools.
“I think it is only right that you and Attorney General Holder join me and come visit a scholarship school in Louisiana to look into the faces of the parents and kids and try to explain to them why you want to force them back into failing schools,” Mr. Jindal said in his letter to Mr. Obama.
In August, the Justice Department asked a federal court in New Orleans to require the state to seek approval from a federal judge before it issues any more private school vouchers to students from any of the 34 public school systems that fall under desegregation orders, which require the schools to achieve racial balance.
The lawsuit would stop the state from awarding vouchers to students in those districts for the 2014-2015 school year.
The lawsuit is based on a 1975 ruling that found that the majority of the state’s black students went to segregated schools until federal courts ordered most schools to integrate. It also found that enrolling students in private schools with public funds interfered with desegregation efforts.
House GOP leaders joined the fight earlier this month, urging Mr. Obama to drop the lawsuit and saying that it hurts the “very children you profess to be protecting.”
Dena W. Iverson, a Justice Department spokesperson, pushed back, saying the government is not “seeking to end Louisiana’s voucher program.”
“The United States seeks a straightforward goal: to ensure that the state of Louisiana implements its school voucher program in a manner that complies with the U.S. Constitution and long-standing federal desegregation orders,” Ms. Iverson said.
In his letter on Monday, Mr. Jindal warned that if the government wins the lawsuit, it will “force thousands of low-income and mostly minority families to keep their children trapped in failing schools.”
“The people of Louisiana do not understand how ripping low-income minority students out of good schools helps them achieve their dreams,” Mr. Jindal said. “Even more ironic, your Department of Justice is attempting to use old rules designed to prevent discrimination against minority children to try and keep these children trapped in failing schools.”