A federal court has rejected attempts by the Justice Department to scrap Louisiana’s school choice program, ending a months-long battle between the state and the Obama administration.

U.S. District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled Tuesday evening that the Louisiana Scholarship Program can go on as planned, as long as the state provides information to the DOJ on vouchers 10 days prior to their award.

The judge did not grant the DOJ’s request to be able to deny vouchers on an individual basis. The vouchers are used by the families of students who attend failing public schools to pay for tuition at private institutions.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R.) called the ruling a “win for children and their parents.”

“Today is a great day for school choice and access to an opportunity for a better education for all Louisianians,” he said. “I am pleased that the court rejected President Obama’s Justice Department’s attempt to establish a review period where bureaucrats in Washington would be able to reject scholarship awards solely because the child is not the ‘right’ skin color.”

The ruling rejected the DOJ’s request for a 45-day review period for all vouchers and will not disrupt the program, simply shortening the second round of scholarship awards by 10 days. The first round of vouchers for the 2014-2015 school year are scheduled for distribution April 21.

Attorney General Eric Holder also praised the ruling, and reiterated his claim that the DOJ was only “seeking information” on the voucher program.

“We welcome the court’s order as it rejects the state’s bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana’s voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts,” Holder said. “This ruling ought to resolve, once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state’s refusal to provide data.”

The DOJ had requested a permanent injunction against the program last August, which would have required all vouchers to be pre-approved by a federal judge.

Louisiana will have to provide the federal government with data on applicants, including name, race, student I.D. number, address, and the public school district the student would be fleeing. The DOJ can challenge whether a school is “impeding desegregation” under the 1975 court ruling Brumfield v. Dodd, an authority the agency has always held.

Additionally, on Thursday the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling by Judge Lemelle that blocked parents of voucher students from intervening in the case. Lemelle had sided with the DOJ, which filed a motion last fall arguing that parents whose kids have benefited from the program had no legal standing to become defendants in the case. The government said the parents’ interest in the lawsuit was “remote.”

The appeals court ruled that parents do have an interest in any lawsuit that “threatens a ‘prospective interference with’ educational opportunities.” While the five families who sued to intervene in the case will not be heard due to the case’s conclusion this week, the Fifth Circuit ruling will allow parents to become defendants in the future should the DOJ challenge the program again.

“The purported aim of the United States is to enforce the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the Fifth Circuit Court said. “If any group can be described as within the zone of interest protected by that clause, surely it is these mostly minority parents who believe that the best way to ensure equal protection of the laws is to give them the opportunity—along with other parents who live in poverty and whose children are in failing schools—to send their children to better schools.”

Jindal said Louisiana would resist further attacks on the program, which primarily serves minority students who attend C, D, or F rated schools. Nearly 7,000 students received vouchers this school year.

“We have learned from this lawsuit the potential dangers of federal government overreach in K-12 education,” he said. “We will remain vigilant that the Department of Justice will not take advantage of the information sharing process and use it as means to further obstruct school choice.  We will continue to oppose any attempts to impede children and their parents from being able to escape failing schools and have access to better educational opportunities.”

School choice organizations also praised the ruling, and vowed to continue to fight for the program.

“This decision takes a lot of the teeth out of the Department of Justice’s original efforts to block the Louisiana Scholarship Program, and puts in place safeguards to both the success of scholarship students and students as a whole in Louisiana,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform.

“Students should not be trapped in a failing or underperforming school simply because of the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live in,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children. “We remain vigilant and will continue to fight to ensure Louisiana’s low-income parents do not become the victims of purely political moves.”  http://tinyurl.com/qj427q8

 
 
More from my interview of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal Wednesday, discussing his proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare:

Geraghty: How does your proposal differ from the repeal-and-replace proposal from the Republican Study Committee, or other plans and ideas from Republicans on Capitol Hill?

Jindal: There absolutely are proven concepts that are common in a lot of different conservative plans — lawsuit reform and other elements like that I think are very attractive. But I do think there are some things that are unique about this plan.

One, it’s comprehensive; it does include premium support in Medicare. It does include the global grants for Medicaid. It does include state reforms on certificates of need and provider scope to provide more supply-side competition. It includes the state grants — $100 billion to states — so there’s a strong federalism component.

With the tax equity, by doing the standard deduction, it drives more efficiency in health care.

I also think it’s a good thing that there are conservatives and Republicans talking about health care. I think there needs to be more of that. Unlike the Left, we don’t have to all march behind Obamacare or behind one plan. I think there’s a good thing there’s a competition and a bunch of different ideas. As somebody who spent much of my career in health-care policy, I hope more Republicans will talk about health-care policy.

We intend all of AmericaNext’s products to be “open source code” — we hope folks use it, there’s no pride of authorship. They can cut and paste it, they can borrow it, adapt it, put it in their plan. This is advancing the conservative debate. The president likes to say that there is no alternative to replace Obamacare with — he needs to stop saying that! The reality is there is an alternative. He can debate us on the merits, but there is a substantive, specific alternative.

Compared to Obamacare’s baseline, ours reduces premiums by $5,000. His actually took the previous marketplace and increased it by $2,100 for a family. The reality is, our plan, I believe, actually delivers what he promised back in 2008 better than his plan does. In 2008, he talked about the need to reduce health-care costs, he opposed the mandate when Senator Clinton proposed it, and since ‘08 he’s talked about the need to keep your plan and your doctor. His plan doesn’t do those things. Our plan actually does.

Geraghty: There are some elements of Obamacare that even the most staunch conservatives are wary about repealing entirely – lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions, or things like that. If there are some parts we don’t need to take away, do we really need to repeal the whole thing? Can you do partial repeal?

Jindal: No, we’ve got to repeal it. Take it out by its roots. The whole thing needs to go. This plan gets rid of the tax increases, Medicare cuts, and doesn’t replace those tax increases or Medicare cuts. When it comes to the insurance-market reforms, we give $100 billion to the states with very few strings, except we do tell them that they’ve got to guarantee they’ll provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. You can do that with high-risk pools, reinsurance, there are a lot of ways to do that. But secondly, we also tell them, you’ve got to use these dollars to lower premiums in their marketplace.

I think that one of the mistakes that the Left makes is that it doesn’t trust people. It doesn’t trust local government. The reality is, that if there are good insurance reforms, they’ll be adopted at the state level.

In Louisiana, it is state law, for example, that kids up to 24 can be carried on their parents’ plans. Not every state agrees with that. But the point is that states are in a better position to make these decisions.

[In 2011 Louisiana’s legislature passed, and Jindal signed into law, a bill that allows children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 21, or age 24 if the child is a full-time student, or continuously if the child is disabled.]

A lot of insurance companies said, before the Supreme Court case, that even if Obamacare were struck down, they weren’t going backwards on those provisions anyway. The Left doesn’t want individual consumers to select their own health-care plans; they don’t want states to make these decisions. I think one of the big mistakes of Obamacare is this one-size fits all benefits approach, regulatory approach from the federal government telling us how we buy health insurance.

One of the things that the cross-state sale of insurance will do under our plan is that as states consider these mandates, benefits, or other restrictions, it will force states to be more cognizant of what it does to the premiums. Now you’ll actually have real competition. The Founding Fathers intended for the states to be laboratories of experimentation. Let’s let that work.

Geraghty: So you’re fine with children staying on their parents’ plans until age 24 or 26?

Jindal: I’d say I’m fine with states being able to make that decision. I don’t think the federal government should dictate that decision. Now, different states can make different decisions. What’s happening right now is that states have been shielded from the consequences of their decisions. There isn’t that competitive pressure to reduce costs, reduce mandates or even examine if the costs outweigh the benefits.

If you adopted these reforms, and you empowered individuals to buy their own health care and made it more affordable, it might cause a lot of states to reexamine whether they needed these restrictions and regulations.

Geraghty: President Obama is going to be sitting in the Oval Office until January 2017. As far as he’s concerned, Obamacare is working fine. Occasionally he’ll say he’s willing to listen to ideas to reform Obamacare, but he never gets all that specific about what he wants to reform. Is it realistic to think that anything in your plan can end up on his desk, or that any of it can be signed into law by President Obama? Or is it really just setting up a blueprint for what Republicans could do in 2017?

Jindal: One, I do think you’ve got to win the debate first. We’ve got to have this debate. We have to go out and show that there is a good alternative. But absolutely there are things that can be done. We don’t need to forget that this president forced this bill through with parliamentary maneuvers and on a party-line vote. There’s a lot that can be done. The reality is you’re seeing more and more Democrats running away from this law, especially those facing their own reelections.

I think it’s a mistake to assume Democrats will never vote for repeal, and that Democrats will never vote for different provisions. I think the reality is they’re about to pay a pretty big political price for supporting this bill. You’re going to see more and more Democrats open to this — as they see the bill isn’t doing what they promised it was going to do.

It’s odd to have a president say it’s a good thing to have over two million fewer Americans in the work force. It’s odd for a president to say, “You know what, you’re not going to be able to keep your doctor. Maybe I shouldn’t have said you were going to keep your health care plan.” It’s odd when the president said, very specifically, not vaguely, “I’m going to cut your premiums $2,500″ and the CBO says they’re going to go up $2,100.

I wouldn’t underestimate how many Democrats will start running from this law and looking for opportunities to repeal and replace. I wouldn’t want to negotiate with ourselves and say, “No, we can’t get this done.” But even before we pass this law, we’ve got to win the debate. We’ve got to persuade folks and show them there’s a better way.

Geraghty: Periodically, conservatives will say we really have to separate the employer from health insurance. That way it will be more portable, and easier for people to take their health insurance from one job to another job. It seems that one of the experiences of Obamacare is that people don’t always like having choices, and that in fact a lot of people don’t like to think about health insurance any more than they have to. Your plan pushes in the direction of separating health insurance from employment. Are Republicans ready for a backlash on that aspect?

Jindal: My takeaway from Obamacare is that people do like choices, but they don’t like to be forced to do things they don’t want to do. We do ease away from that job lock by giving people the ability to have a portable deduction. We also do through association plans that can be sold across state lines with ERISA protections to give them more choices. We do make it easier for people to buy their health care through the individual and other marketplaces.

We’re very explicit about this: This is going to be a voluntary and gradual transition. This is not going to be an overnight, dramatic, and forced transition from employer-provided health care. The reality is, folks can continue to get their health care through their employers. This is one of the benefits of making it a standard deduction, as opposed to some of the other alternatives that are out there. You can still get your health care through your employer, and most people probably still will, in the short term. That doesn’t change overnight. But what you have is a gradual transition where now if people change jobs, they can go to the individual market without exhausting COBRA. If they want to buy through their churches or unions or their social membership multi-state clubs, they can do that and get those ERISA protections.

It’ll be easier to buy [Health Savings Accounts], it’s be easier to bring those tax-advantaged accounts with you from place to place.

It’s also going to be easier for employers to provide health care – because now they can contribute to a wellness account on a tax-advantaged basis or an HSA with varying deductibles, or they can allow you to use your savings in your HSA to pay your premiums, which they couldn’t do before.

I think it actually makes it easier for employers who want to continue to provide the health care, but it also makes it easier for folks that are changing jobs or changing states that don’t want to be job-locked.

You may have seen that new study out today from larger employers talking about the thousands of dollars per employee that Obamacare is going to cost them over the next several years. So it’s not just small employers, but big employers are waking up to these costs, too.

Geraghty: I notice you used the term “job lock” twice. I presume you mean staying in a job because you need the health insurance. But I presume you recall Nancy Pelosi lamenting how terrible it was that people getting locked into jobs . . . 

Jindal: I think she was talking about them going and becoming artists or whatever and not working. What I’m saying is that when you change jobs, or move jobs, you should be able to take your health care with you.

Geraghty: Who advised you on this?

Jindal: Chris [Jacobs, policy director for America Next]. A lot of people. We’ve talked with a number of folks — conservative governors and lawmakers and health-care-policy folks. This is something we’ve been working on for a while. But it also comes from my career of thinking about and writing health-care policy. Premium support, for example, goes back to my year on the Medicare commission in the 1990s. I like to remind folks, we’re the ones who came up with the idea of applying premium support to Medicare, and the [center-left think tank Democratic Leadership Council] endorsed it that year. Now the Left likes to call it this radical, fringe idea, but the reality is that this has been something that has been around for several years, and the [American Medical Association], the Mayo Clinic, the Wall Street Journal — several mainstream folks endorsed this concept way back when.

The global grant on Medicaid reform is something I’ve been talking about with governors for quite some time. It’s not just Republican governors, Democratic governors are very frustrated with what they see coming out of [the Center Medicaid Services] and HHS in D.C. When you look at the market reforms, I’ve been talking to folks in the industry, patient-advocacy groups, and asking, “All right, if we were do these things differently, how should we do these things?”  http://tinyurl.com/k3cxqm9
 
 
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came to Washington on Wednesday with a message to those arguing that conservatives would have to operate within the policy framework created by President Obama's health care law: “I absolutely do not think we can give up the fight to repeal Obamacare.”

The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate was in town to promote a new health care plan developed by his America Next policy group that would not only repeal Obamacare in its entirety, but also make sweeping changes to the system that existed prior to the law's implementation.

Under Jindal’s proposal, Obamacare would be replaced with a system that equalizes the tax treatment of health insurance. Instead of merely giving tax advantages to those who obtain insurance through their employers, the Jindal plan would create a standard deduction for health insurance for all taxpayers.

His plan also allocates $100 billion over a decade for grants to states if they agree to set up a program to guarantee coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and drive down premiums. Additionally, the plan would return some money to states known as Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments -- which were slashed as part of Obamacare -- and states would have to direct the funding toward expanding health insurance. He said there would be more than enough money to finance the grants out of the savings generated by other elements of his plan.

In a discussion with right-leaning health care scholars and journalists, Jindal criticized the narrative being written about the White House announcement that 7.1 million people had signed up for coverage through the health care law.

“I think it's a mistake if we measure health care reform in terms of how many people we give cards to,” Jindal said. He noted a landmark study from Oregon that found that Medicaid made no measurable difference in physical health outcomes.

“We need to focus on real health care reform that empowers the consumer, that doesn’t grow government, that puts patients back in charge and allows people to continue to get access to high quality care,” he argued. “I think the president made a mistake when he veered off his focus on costs and I think we can reclaim the debate, re-center the debate, re-focus the debate on providing access to high quality care, driving down the cost of health care.”

Though many elements of the plan are ones that conservatives have advocated in the past, the question now facing Republicans is whether the implementation of the health care law – specifically the fact that there are now millions more people receiving government-subsidized insurance and Medicaid – changed the policy calculus.

“I absolutely do not think we can give up the fight to repeal Obamacare,” he said when I pressed him on that point. “That’s the attack from the Left obviously, that once you’ve given stuff to folks, once you've expanded a program, you can’t cut it back. If as conservatives we concede that, we’re done. We’re done as a country and we’re done as a conservative movement.”

Citing his successes in cutting government spending in Louisiana, Jindal said, “So, I absolutely don’t concede the premise that once you grow government spending, you can never take it back. Or can never cut back. Because I think that’s a very dangerous place to be.”

He rejected the idea that the law would become intractable the longer it was in place and signed up new beneficiaries.

“I don’t think with time, this gets better,” he said “I think with time, more and more of their broken promises are exposed.”

As examples, he noted people losing their plans and access to the doctors and the Congressional Budget Office finding that it would create incentives for people to leave the workforce.

“I’d also say that we’ve got to build the case for repeal and replace,” he explained. “And part of doing that is winning the debate. Winning the war of ideas and showing there is a real alternative. The president likes to go around saying, ‘There’s no other way to cover people with this condition or that.’ And that’s just not true. I think we can show that person with pre-existing conditions with these reforms, you do have access to an affordable health care plan. And I do think that this is still a center-right country, and if we don’t believe that, I think we’ve got bigger problems.”

Jindal emphasized that Obama was willing to pay a political price to pass his health care law, and therefore Republicans should also be willing to take a bold stand in favor of a market-based approach.

“I think if you went back in time and found then-Senator Obama and said, ‘You’re going to be elected president. If you do Obamacare, you’re going to lose the House, lose the ability to do anything else, or get any of your other big domestic policies through Congress,’ I think he’d still do it."

Jindal explained, "For them, they understand, this is a once-in-a-generational opportunity to grow the size of government and encroach on our liberties. And so I think that it’s that important and it’s that much worth fighting for to repeal it and replace it. But I think the way you get a majority of the American people convinced is to win that debate of ideas. It’s to be specific and to be willing to look at people and say, ‘We’re going to do this and we’re not going to do that.’ And not everybody is going to agree with it. And that’s okay."

He went on to say that, "I think there are some smart political folks in this town who think the best course is just to be against Obamacare until November and don’t propose anything specific. And I think that’s a mistake. I think we need to have the courage of our convictions. We as conservatives like to say this is a critical time for the country. If we really believe that, we need to be able to, No. 1, be willing to persuade people and then secondly, go say why and what would we do differently to build that mandate.”

Later on in the conversation, Jindal said, “I do think it’s a mistake if we say that we can’t take back what Obama’s already given.”

Jindal was pressed on why he chose to offer a tax deduction for individuals to purchase insurance rather than a refundable tax credit. Supporters of the tax credit approach argue that it would benefit more people, because lower-income Americans don’t pay enough taxes for the deduction to be valuable enough to make insurance premiums affordable.

He said that he decided on the deduction approach because relying on tax credits would be so costly that it would require tax increases – and Jindal doesn’t want his plan to spend more or tax more than the system that existed prior to Obamacare’s passage. He also argued that credits would cause more disruption to the employer-based market and would be more prone to fraud.

He said that whatever amounts of money conservatives were willing to allocate to address a problem, Democrats would always be willing to spend more, so conservatives cannot get into a bidding war.

Jindal cited previous estimates of similar reform proposals to his own, which he said could reduce family health insurance premiums by $5,000 annually and increase coverage by 9 million people relative to the number of people who were covered prior to Obamacare.

“I don’t think conservative health care reform is about saying we’re going to compete with them in terms of how many people we say have an insurance card,” he said. “That’s not the ultimate goal.”

In addition to changing the tax treatment of health insurance and offering grants to states, Jindal’s health care plan would include a series of additional reforms, such as ideas to expand health savings accounts by allowing individuals to use funds to pay premiums; allowing interstate purchasing of insurance; creating incentives for individuals to engage in more healthy behaviors; reforming the medical malpractice system; transitioning Medicare to a system in which individuals can choose among government-subsidized insurance policies; and moving Medicaid into a system in which states are given grants and provided more flexibility to implement the program.  http://tinyurl.com/mr2crt5

 
 
They’re practically the first words out of one’s mouth the second a Washington reporter hears about a new health reform proposal: "How many people does your plan cover?"

The basic premise of the America Next health plan I’m endorsing today is simple: “I believe the problem is not that folks are trying to avoid getting health care. The problem is they can’t afford it.”

First, we need to focus like a laser beam on the health care issue Americans care most about: Rising costs. In short, I agree with Barack Obama.

Of course, Barack Obama circa January 2008—when he uttered those words in opposition to a health insurance mandate -- represents a far cry from the Barack Obama who signed ObamaCare into law in March 2010. 

The president backtracked on nearly every single promise he made: on an individual mandate, keeping your plan, cutting premiums by $2,500 per year, and even on taxing health benefits -- all in the name of achieving the left’s utopia of “universal coverage.” And in return, America has been left with shredded promises, cancelled insurance plans, and a major-league case of buyer’s remorse.

So no, I won’t endorse a plan that sees tens of millions of Americans forced to buy health insurance under pain of taxation. 

I won’t endorse a plan that sees millions of other Americans forced out of the insurance they like, simply because it doesn’t meet some Washington bureaucrat’s standards. And I won’t endorse a plan that sees Americans extended the promise of insurance, only to find out that the “coverage” provided doesn’t guarantee they’ll receive the care they need. 

We already have all that -- it’s called ObamaCare, and it needs to be fully repealed, because it’s the problem.

Here’s the solution.

First, we need to focus like a laser beam on the health care issue Americans care most about:rising costs. 

The plan I’m endorsing includes an innovative $100 billion grant program that incentivizes our “laboratories of democracy”—the states—to come up with insurance reforms and other solutions that can stem the rising tide of health costs. States’ eligibility for the grants would be tied to their ability to lower insurance premiums for their citizens.

We include other reforms in our plan too -- tax equity between employer and individually-purchased health plans, lawsuit reform, wellness incentives, and new incentives for Health Savings Accounts. 

These reforms have proven track records of success -- and analysis from top economists to back them up. 

In fact, the Congressional Budget Office, analyzing a similar state-based approach in 2009, concluded that the kinds of ideas included in our plan would lower premiums on the individual health insurance market by $5,000 per year when compared to current projections. That, and not ObamaCare “rate shock,” is true change America can believe in.

Second, we need to protect the safety net for the most vulnerable. As someone whose mother arrived on these shores pregnant with me, I’m well aware of the plight of Americans with pre-existing conditions. I was one -- from birth. 

My son Shaan’s desperate fight for survival from a childhood heart defect reinforced my belief in making sure those with major illnesses don’t get left out in the cold. But we didn’t need to give up all the good things in the system to fix the bad. Extending coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions didn’t require throwing millions of Americans off their current plans, or turning the IRS into the health insurance police.

Here’s a better solution. Our plan’s state grant program requires states applying for grants to guarantee access for individuals with pre-existing conditions. A state could guarantee access through a high-risk pool, through reinsurance, or through some other mechanism. But our plan ensures that the most vulnerable won’t fall through the cracks, and provides $100 billion in resources that states can use to subsidize that coverage.

Third, we should make insurance more portable, to enhance personal choice. Rather than taking away choices by regulatory fiat, we should give Americans more insurance options, so they can purchase plans they will own, hold, and keep. But if people like their existing plan, they won’t have to worry about it getting taken away by some government bureaucrat saying it doesn’t comply with a new mandate.

As someone who studied public policy in college, and worked in health policy all my adult life, I know ObamaCare is bad policy. 

The law may have been sold as a solution to the problem of pre-existing conditions. But it solidifies government -- through taxes, mandates, regulations, and your friendly bureaucrats at the IRS -- as a pre-existing condition in our health care system, and in the lives of all Americans.

That’s not reform.

As a governor, I know states can do better. We need solutions, but not Washington-centric bureaucracy disguised as “reform”—we’ve done that already, and it hasn’t worked. 

By contrast, conservative governors throughout the country have implemented successful health reforms -- from the Hoosier State’s Healthy Indiana Plan, to Rhode Island’s innovative Medicaid waiver, to the Bayou Health program we’ve created right here in Louisiana. These reforms have lowered costs -- in some cases dramatically -- improved the quality of care, and received widespread public support.

But in many states, including Louisiana, we would go further with our reforms, if only Washington bureaucrats would get out of the way. At the risk of echoing Churchill, that’s the better way forward on health care -- give states the tools, and let them do the job.  http://tinyurl.com/qhyrtae

 
 


This is Gov. Bobby Jindal:

The federal government provides funds to states matching their Medicaid contributions. But ObamaCare includes a twist: The law provides a richer federal match for states’ coverage of childless adults than Medicaid programs receive for covering individuals with disabilities. I’ll say that again: ObamaCare prioritizes Medicaid coverage of childless adults over care for persons with disabilities. That’s a case of skewed priorities if I ever heard of one.

…[M]y proposed budget for this year directs $26 million in new funding to home and community-based services for elderly individuals and persons with disabilities. We’re focused on improving the quality of care, and giving individuals with disabilities more choices. We’ve already increased the number of individuals receiving home and community-based care by 5,000, and this year’s funding increase will ultimately reduce our waiting list for services by over 4,000.

But while we’re focused on improving the quality of care provided and reducing waiting lists for persons with disabilities, Liberals would rather our state use those resources to participate in ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Liberal groups like MoveOn.org won’t say one word about caring for individuals with disabilities, or how ObamaCare prioritizes coverage of childless adults ahead of the most vulnerable — they just want to intimidate states into accepting ObamaCare’s massive new spending programs.  http://tinyurl.com/jwm2qad

 
 
This year, many on the left are celebrating 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty — an era that saw the creation of massive new government programs that liberals proclaimed would raise living standards for the poor. However, it’s a distinctly ironic anniversary. Half a century later, with the Census Bureau reporting more than 46 million Americans still mired in poverty, these same liberals seem insistent on denying low-income children quality educational opportunities, through cruel policies that will only perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has embarked on a systematic campaign to destroy the city’s burgeoning charter school movement. He’s diverting more than $200 million in funding marked for charter schools, and has also thrown hundreds of students out of their promised school buildings. He has also declared his intent to nullify arrangements that allow charters to locate in existing public schools rent-free.

The mayor’s open warfare against Eva Moskowitz, who founded a network of 22 charter schools, has all the markings of a petulant tyrant holding low-income students hostage. De Blasio has said, “There’s no way in hell Eva Moskowitz should get free rent” — as if the 6,700 students in the charter schools she runs were a mere afterthought in his personal vendetta against a fellow Democrat.

Last May, he told a teachers-union forum that Moskowitz “has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.” Yes, by all means, let’s not “tolerate” someone behind a movement to empower parents and students with more — and better — education choices. This woman who is making it possible for low-income kids to have an equal opportunity for a quality education must be stopped.

In Louisiana, we know a thing or two about government authorities meddling in parents’ right to choose the schools that are best for their children. President Obama’s Justice Department filed a lawsuit trying to impede our program that gives parents of low-income students in failing schools an opportunity to attend a better school. Fully nine in 10 students participating in the program are minorities, yet the Justice Department seeks to block the program on the grounds that it would lead to racial segregation. The lawsuit would be funny if it weren’t so sad — and if the lives of so many young African-American children weren’t at stake.

Lost in all the outrage manufactured by Mayor de Blasio is one simple fact: School choice works.

In New York, four in five charters outperformed comparable public schools in recent state tests; Moskowitz’s schools scored in the top 1 percent in math, and top 7 percent in English. In the president’s hometown of Chicago, one network of charter schools boasts a college graduation rate three times the average of Chicago public schools.

Yet these achievements are no matter to the left, which still clings to the shibboleths of a one-size-fits-all, Industrial Revolution-era education agenda dictated by government and teachers unions.

In his 2009 inaugural address, President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” Yet the sound science of numerous studies confirming the positive effects of school choice on student achievement matters far less to Democratic politicians than the nearly $100 million in contributions they’ve received over the last 25 years just from the two largest teachers unions.

Worst of all, the left and teachers unions aren’t just denying the clear facts — they’re denying millions of low-income students the opportunity for a better future.

As long as they stand on the side of the unions, it seems, President Obama and Mayor de Blasio don’t mind standing between children and the opportunity for a great education. But it’s clear to me, and it’s clear to thousands of parents from the Lower Ninth Ward to the Lower East Side, that their misguided and immoral policies will limit the futures of yet another generation of African-American youths.

I firmly believe in this fundamental premise: “In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education … And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.”

Those words came from President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address. I wish both the president and Mayor de Blasio would take those words to heart, and stop denying low-income families opportunities and choices for the quality education all children deserve.

Because this generation of Americans deserves more than the message they’re now getting from liberal leaders: If you like your poverty, you can keep it.  http://tinyurl.com/o8ahah6

 
 
Gov. Bobby Jindal is battling to protect Louisiana’s fast-growing school voucher program from an all-out attack by the Obama administration.

The Justice Department claims the state’s private schools are defying a decades-old federal desegregation order.

In November, a judge ruled the Department could monitor Louisiana's voucher program, even though 90 percent of the 6,750 students who use the Louisiana Scholarship Program are minority, and 85 percent are black.

The Louisiana Scholarship Program originated in New Orleans in 2008 and Jindal expanded it to other parts of the state in 2012. Now 126 nonpublic schools participate in the program.

Eligible students must come from a family whose income does not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty threshold. Students must be entering kindergarten or must transfer from a public school that has a poor rating from the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

The Justice Department sued the state in August, first seeking a permanent injunction to stop the program. That request for an injunction was later halted and the DOJ dropped the lawsuit, but the department continues to seek a broader role in monitoring the program, including requiring a 45-day review before each student who receives a voucher scholarship can begin school.

Now Gov. Jindal is pushing back against the federal intervention in his state's educational system.

Jindal filed a 38-page response to the ruling earlier in January, asking a judge to overturn a 1976 "white flight" case that prohibited giving public funds to all-white private schools. In the filing, the state noted that private schools must be certified by the Justice Department as nondiscriminatory before allowing voucher students to enroll.

"The state strongly believes that it is equally wrong to block scholarship awards to eligible children of other races, but there is a special irony in the fact that the United States would inflict this harm on so many black children and families, all in the name of Brown v. Board of Education," attorneys wrote in the filing.

Jindal decried the Justice Department's overreach in a statement, noting he was "shocked" by the DOJ's attempt to seek racial composition profiles of private schools that take voucher students.

"President Obama’s Department of Justice has admitted it cannot prove that Louisiana school choice is violating desegregation efforts, yet it continues to seek the ability to tell a parent their child cannot escape a failing school because their child is not the 'right' race," Jindal said.

"The Department of Justice proposal reeks of federal government intrusion and proves the people in Washington running our federal government are more interested in skin color than they are in education," Jindal said.

Some education policy experts say the Justice Department's involvement in Louisiana can only harm the very children who need help the most.

"To be able to step in and pre-approve a voucher program is breathtaking federal overreach," says Lindsey Burke, who analyzes education policy for the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"The Department of Justice is now basically trying to micromanage the program to death," she said. "The federal government now wants to pre-approve every single voucher in Louisiana. It's hard to even wrap your head around the audacity of Washington, trying to [require schools] to provide information on every student who applies for a voucher and then have the authority to disapprove it."

The whole point of desegregation orders decades ago was to ensure that students from every background had equal educational opportunity, Burke told Newsmax.

Vouchers, she added, act as an equalizing pathway to that end.

"So many students, particularly low-income and disadvantaged students, are assigned to schools that fail to meet their needs and in some cases fail to be adequately safe," Burke said. "This program is an attempt to provide parents in Louisiana to with some say in where and how their children are educated. For many, the government-assigned, government-run public system is not meeting their needs."

Burke was not alone in criticizing the DOJ's motive in its filing. Former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, speaking last September at the National Press Club before the lawsuit was dropped, offered that the program had helped to increase achievement in those students who are participating, Politico reported.

"This is purely political, perhaps payback for political elections of the past," Bush said. "I have no idea why they have made this decision, but I do know for a fact that we need to transform our education system state by state to assure that more than just 25 or 30 percent of our kids are college- or career-ready."

Bush's objections were reiterated by House Speaker John Boehner in a letter signed by other lawmakers and sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Boehner noted that 18 states along with the District of Columbia currently were participating in some kind of voucher program, with about 250,000 students enrolled nationally.

"The department's allegation that the Louisiana Program could impede the desegregation process is extremely troubling and paradoxical in nature," Boehner wrote. "If the DOJ is successful in shutting down this valuable school choice initiative, not only will students across Louisiana be forced to remain in failing schools, but it could have a reverberating effect and cause other states to feel pressured to shut down similar initiatives that provide countless children the opportunity to receive a better education."

Whether measurable achievement has occurred in the voucher schools is open to debate, but parents of voucher students in Louisiana seem satisfied with the program. A study released last March by a school choice advocacy group, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, found more than 90 percent said they were pleased with their child's new school.

And at least one study of the program by the University of Arkansas's Department of Education Reform found that it has positive effects on racial integration.

Authors Anna J. Egalite and Jonathan N. Mills noted that voucher student transfers "overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which they are located."

They added that in those districts where the DOJ is concerned about desegregation violations, the Louisiana Scholarship Program transfers "improve integration in both the sending schools and the private schools participating students attend (receiving schools)."

Burke of the Heritage Foundation said she sees a "pattern of hostility" directed at voucher programs around the country to "disrupt and eliminate" private school choice options.

"Louisiana is not the only place where we have seen the administration step in and try to prevent school choice from proliferating," Burke noted. "Every year we've seen this administration try to eliminate funding for the wildly success D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program."

That program has been in place in Washington, D.C., for nine years and has awarded close to 5,000 scholarships to mainly black students who may take their vouchers and pay to attend higher performing private schools.

The Obama administration has been somewhat open to charter schools, but those are public schools, Burke noted, adding that much of the fealty toward protecting the power base of public schools is rooted in "union labor loyalty."

"You have the teacher unions that throw tremendous amounts of money in support of this administration," Burke said.

"The teacher unions have been blockers every step of the way," she added. "When you look at the history of school choice, you see the unions always trying to put up barriers to school choice and now they have an administration that is supportive of that effort. This is a direct threat to union power — kids choosing private schools that are autonomous." http://tinyurl.com/kodlq22

 
 
A federal judge ruled against Louisiana in a case against the state’s scholarship program on Friday, requiring federal oversight for the program that allows children to escape failing schools.

The ruling may lead to a lengthy review process preferred by the Justice Department (DOJ), which Gov. Bobby Jindal (R.) says could regulate the program to death.

The decision was the latest in a legal battle between the Obama administration and the state, dating back to August. The DOJ first requested a permanent injunction on the basis that the program “impedes desegregation” wanting future vouchers to be handed out by a federal judge.

The government abandoned that request earlier this week, opting instead to seek federal supervision over the program.

Judge Ivan Lemelle sided with the DOJ on Friday, saying “the Court has an obligation [...] to take reasonable steps in the process whereby the voucher program is not being used to promote segregation.”

Lemelle said the two parties would have 60 days to come up with a reporting process for a conference on Jan. 22.

Judge Lemelle added that whatever the sides come up with, it cannot be “so arduous it scuttles the voucher program,” according to the Times Picayune. The judge said he did not want to disrupt the program, pointing to a state analysis that found that the program actually improves desegregation efforts.

“We’re pleased the Judge acknowledged that data provided by the state show the program does not have a negative impact on desegregation,” Jindal said in a statement. “We are also glad the Judge made clear he does not want to disrupt the scholarship program. The Judge has indicated he wants both parties to determine a process that does not allow the scholarship program to send state aid to segregated private schools.”

“The state already ensures that the scholarship program does not provide state funds to segregated private schools,” he said.

The DOJ’s process would require the state to provide information on all student applicants for vouchers 45 days before any are awarded, as well as information of students already enrolled in the program.

The data would include name, race, student I.D. number, address, and the public school district the student would be leaving.

If the government is not satisfied with the data provided and believes a voucher would disrupt the racial balance of a school, they could then request “the assistance” of the court to try to stop individual parent applications.

Jon Riches, an attorney for the Goldwater Institute representing parents who tried to intervene in the case, told the Washington Free Beacon that the DOJ’s plan would harm the scholarship program.

“It’s clearly a burden,” he said. “It’s going to be impossible for the state to provide all the information.”

“Whatever [the DOJ’s] view is, if they think the voucher prevented racial integration then they could go after individual vouchers,” Riches said.

“The fact that the DOJ is still persisting on seeking the court’s assistance in going after individual vouchers is a threat to the voucher program,” he said.

Jindal was adamant about not letting the administration interfere with individual cases.

“We will draw a hard line against allowing the federal government to control the scholarship program and handpick schools for Louisiana’s children,” he said.

“No parent should have to get the president’s permission—no matter which party that president is in—just to put their kid in the school of their choice.” http://tinyurl.com/l2ogsbu

 
 
Personnel is policy, and the Obama administration knows it.  That’s why they hired swarms of committed leftist lawyers to populate the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Bobby Jindal and school choice advocates are finding out the hard way how it works.

Mike Flynn at Breitbart covers a lawsuit filed last week to block school choice in Louisiana by the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division. (Copy of complaint is here.)  The lawsuit alleges that school choice in Louisiana means too many white kids are going to private schools.  Never mind the fact that black children can do the same thing.

People regularly underestimate the enormous power held by radical bureaucrats.  People often wrongly assume Eric Holder or President Obama are masterminding these radical and absurd policies.  They are wrong. Holder and his downstream political appointees often only green-light radical legal theories cooked up by lifelong radicals.

So let’s meet the lifelong radicals attacking Bobby Jindal’s state education policies, as profiled in the PJ Media Every Single One  series.

Anurima Bhargava: Ms. Bhargava was hired as the new chief of the Section after working for the previous six years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Although her days were likely busy there, she managed to find time to make a $250 contribution to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. She also produced the “Jazz for Obama” concert back in October 2008.

During her tenure at the NAACP LDF she litigated cases across the country seeking to defend and expand the use of racial preferences and racial quotas in public secondary schools and universities. One of the highlights of her work was her coordination of the filing of amicus briefs and other advocacy efforts in support of two Supreme Court cases in which liberal coalitions insisted that local schools be permitted to assign public students to different schools on the basis of race. Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this argument as unconstitutional.

In remarks to the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues (yes, such a waste of time and money really does exist) just before joining the Justice Department, Ms. Bhargava described how imperative it was for schools to promote “integration and social cohesion” by considering race, language, immigration status, and religion in placement decisions. Imagine what your communities would be like if courts actually permitted government bureaucrats to engage in such racial engineering.

One wonders if she has even read the Constitution. This woman is running the Educational Opportunities Section.

When it comes to the rights of non-traditional minorities, like whites, Ms. Bhargava’s ideology of inclusion begins to crumble. Indeed, after the Bush Civil Rights Division negotiated a consent decree with Southern Illinois University to end racially discriminatory paid fellowships for which white graduates were told they were not eligible based on their skin color, Ms. Bhargava publicly blasted the decision as “hinder[ing] the legitimate efforts of colleges and universities to create equal educational opportunity.”

And some deniers still think this Justice Department will enforce the law to protect all Americans from racial discrimination.

Shortly thereafter, she was ironically honored for her aggressive battles to prevent state referendums (i.e., real democracy at work) opposing racial preferences. Once again, rights for me, but not for thee.

Her prior work experience includes a fellowship with the ACLU and service as the field director for the election campaign of ultra-liberal Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey. In addition, she remains a member (along with the militant Lani Guinier) of the advisory board of the Center for Institutional and Social Change, whose must-see website is testament to the detached dribble of left-wing activism. The group states that “through a multi-level systems approach, [its] research develops the capacity to sustain and ‘scale up’ initiatives aimed at building the ‘architecture of inclusion.’” It adds that its “collaborative projects develop frameworks, strategies, and roles designed to maximize the impact and influence of initiatives that advance full participation, innovative public problem solving, and institutional reimagination [sic!] — a set of linked goals we refer to as ‘institutional citizenship.’”

Now Ms. Bhargava gets to impose that Orwellian “institutional citizenship” on the rest of us from her new perch in the Civil Rights Division.

Torey Cummings: Ms. Cummings joined the Education Section as a trial attorney from a large private practice law firm, where she performed significant pro bono work representing terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay and death row inmates. This is a trend among new Holder DOJ employees. Never mind the fact every detainee can obtain a highly qualified federal public defender, these attorneys rushed to represent America’s enemies for free. She previously worked as a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and as a project assistant at the Wellesley College Centers for Women, where she was able to utilize her social work degree. http://tinyurl.com/kbmhzhv

 
 
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers "impeded the desegregation process," the federal government says.

Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems  to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

Last year, at least 570 students were affected; the program has expanded since then. The federal petition would require the state to analyze this year's vouchers to see how they affected school desegregation. (Read the petition.)

The Justice Department's primary argument is that letting students leave for vouchered private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Those orders almost  always set rules for student transfers with the school system.

Federal analysis found that last year's Louisiana vouchers increased racial imbalance in 34 historically segregated public schools in 13 systems. The Justice Department goes so far as to charge that in some of those schools, "the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration."

In Tangipahoa Parish, for instance, Independence Elementary School lost five white students to voucher schools, the petition states. The consequent change in the percent of enrolled white students "reinforc(ed) the racial identity of the school as a black school."

While the federal petition would let courts approve vouchers in those school systems next year, Brian Blackwell, attorney for the Louisiana Association of Educators, said it likely would take a lot of time, effort and evidence to persuade the judges.

State Education Superintendent John White took issue with the suit's primary argument and its characterization of the program. Almost all the students using vouchers are black, he said. Given that framework, "it's a little ridiculous" to argue that students' departure to voucher schools makes their home school systems less white, he said. He also thought it ironic that rules set up to combat racism were being called on to keep black students in failing schools.

The voucher program started in New Orleans in 2008. A large number of participants still live in the city.

White also pointed out that the schools in the voucher program must comply with the terms of 1975 court case, Brumfield v. Dodd, that prohibits the state from giving public money to private schools that uphold segregation or discrimination.

The voucher program has been controversial since its inception last year, with multiple suits filed to block it. After the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in May that the state could not use the money it allots for each student in public schools, Gov. Bobby Jindal found about $40 million in public money elsewhere to cover the almost 8,000 2013-14 enrollees.

Jindal blasted the Justice Department's suit Saturday.

"After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right. Shame on them," he said. "Parents should have the ability to decide where to send their child to school."

The case has been assigned to Judge Ivan Lemelle. He ruled in November that elements of Jindal's 2012 education overhaul were unconstitutional,  because paying to implement the voucher program would hurt Tangipahoa Parish's ability to pay for the programs it uses to comply with its federal desegregation order. The state's appeal in that case is pending. http://tinyurl.com/k2ezcoe