by David Safier
Among the concerns about charter schools is that they're more segregated than school district schools. Now the Justice Department is looking carefully at Louisiana's voucher program because it appears to be increasing school segregation. Many Louisiana districts are still being monitored by the Feds because of segregation problems, much like TUSD which has its own deseg order. An increase in Louisiana's school segregation as a result of vouchers could mean they will be thrown out.
States like Louisiana with school districts subject to federal oversight are tasked with assessing the impact educational changes will have on efforts to desegregate. DOJ argues that Louisiana fell short of its legal duty when it failed to even consider the impact that the voucher program would have on desegregation. While the Department of Justice was able to obtain some data on the impacts of school vouchers, it predicted that its findings greatly underestimate the degree of re-segregation, because they were not able to obtain full data from the state.
Every large scale study of the achievement of similar students in district schools, charters and private schools has concluded there is no significant difference in the quality of education between the three types of schools. However, studies have concluded that charters and private schools tend to be more segregated than district schools. The disturbing fact is, district schools today are no less segregated than they were during the March on Washington 50 years ago. Increases in the number of charter schools and the growing number of states adopting vouchers are pushing us backward.
The voucher program is a favorite of Governor Bobby Jindal, who, it's worth noting, is the most unpopular GOP governor in the country. His voucher system managed to weather an earlier state court challenge, but it may not weather this federal challenge. Seeing as how Americans like vouchers less today than they did a year ago -- only 29% are in favor of vouchers and 70% oppose them -- the people of Louisiana probably don't feel like they're losing much.