Bobby Jindal Receives Renewed Support For Controversial School Voucher Program

08/27/2014 02:15 pm ET | Updated Aug 27, 2014
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On Wednesday, less than a month after the Black Alliance for Educational Options supported a lawsuit against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) over his attacks on the Common Core, the right-leaning organization came to the defense of the state's school voucher system -- which happens to be Jindal's signature education program.

BAEO announced Wednesday that it would join Louisiana families in asking the US. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to dismiss an April ruling that required the voucher program to regularly disclose student data to the federal government. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle rejected the families' motion to dismiss the order.

The April ruling came after a long-simmering feud between Jindal and the Obama administration, which last summer sued Jindal for his creation of the program, citing a 40-year-old desegregation order. Vouchers use public dollars to pay for private -- and often religious -- schools. The Department of Justice filing argued that Jindal's voucher program violates decades-old school desegregation orders from Brumfield v. Dodd, a lawsuit resolved in 1975, in 34 school districts.

The DOJ filing, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, sought a permanent injunction to stop the state from awarding vouchers to students in those districts for the 2014-2015 school year without first seeking pre-clearance from a federal court. The Brumfield consent degree prohibits the funding of anything that could advance segregation, and most of the students who take advantage of the voucher program are black.

The DOJ later downgraded its initial request, ultimately asking only for student data, but Jindal still used the case as an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama. In this, he found some allies. Last year, prominent GOP politicians spoke out against the Justice Department lawsuit, and last week, House Republicans, including Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), wrote a letter accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of keeping black kids in failing schools.

While groups like BAEO have defended Jindal on the vouchers issue, the group split with him last month over the Common Core.

"We have fought together on the same side on lawsuits and those sorts of things, but for us, the overriding interest has always been children," BAEO President Kenneth Campbell previously told The Huffington Post when asked about the rift. "The same way that we stood with the governor at times [...] we think the governor is wrong on this issue."

In a statement, Clint Bolick, the attorney who filed Wednesday's appeal on behalf of voucher families and BAEO, said the current fight represents a "test case of whether desegregation decrees that were intended to secure educational opportunities for minority school children can be manipulated to thwart these opportunities." He added that any sort of federal jurisdiction represents "a dark cloud hover[ing] over all school choice programs."

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, Jindal sued the federal government over the Common Core. In a statement, Jindal characterized the Common Core as "the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C. in control of everything."

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Lakisha Fuselier, a black St. Martin Parish mother who works as a cook, told The Huffington Post when she joined the motion against the lawsuit that she considered the opportunities for religious education offered by the voucher program to be valuable. "They're getting religion out of it, where in public school there's no religion," she said of her children. "That's important."

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