Last week, Senator Pat Roberts joined 29 other Senators in “calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to explain why his Justice Department is suing to force 570 needy children to remain in failing public schools based solely on their skin color.”
The Kansas senator called it ironic that desegregation laws are being used to keep African-American students from using vouchers to transfer to better schools. The suit alleges it would lower the ratio of African-American students in some schools to unacceptable levels.
Vouchers, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, allow low-income students in C-, D- or F-graded public schools to enroll in participating private schools at taxpayer expense, explains reporter Danielle Dreilinger with NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Her story quotes a recent study by EducationNet, whose authors concluded, “The statewide school voucher program appears to have brought greater integration to Louisiana’s public schools.”
Roberts is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He notes that New Orleans launched the pilot version of the scholarship program in 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. Last year Louisiana expanded the program statewide.
The program has been a remarkable success, Roberts adds: “91 percent of scholarship children were minorities – 86 percent African-American and 5 percent from other minority groups. Because the average scholarship equaled $4,500, some $3,000 less than the amount Louisiana’s public schools spend per child, the program saved Louisiana taxpayers $18 million in 2012 alone. ... Test scores have risen among scholarship students. More importantly, the program is lauded by those in the best position to determine what is best for Louisiana’s children: their parents.”
No doubt there are good reasons to question the merits of school vouchers, but Senator Roberts has it right when he asserts, “I firmly believe all children, no matter who they are or where they live, should not be discouraged or prohibited from the opportunity to learn and achieve their dreams.”