Louisiana Choice Reduces Segregation: Why Is Justice Department Attacking It?

Tomorrow my Education Policy Center friends are hosting a Brown Bag lunch with special guest speaker Clint Bolick. He’s a big time pro-school choice attorney who right now is helping low-income families in Louisiana whose educational civil rights are under attack by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Why the attack? The Feds say the program that empowers them to choose a more suitable school somehow violates federal desegregation orders. Huh? That’s all ancient history to a little kid like me, but the idea they say is that these students’ choices are keeping kids of different races apart. The problem with that claim? New research published in Education Next shows the Louisiana Scholarship Program actually has the opposite effect:

The evidence suggests that use of private school vouchers by low-income students actually has positive effects on racial integration. Among the subset of students for whom data are available, we find that transfers made possible by the school-choice program overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools that students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which they are located. In the school districts under federal desegregation orders, which are the focus of the Department of Justice litigation, LSP transfers improve integration in both the sending schools and the private schools that participating students attend (receiving schools). These findings should help mitigate fears that school choice is harming desegregation efforts in Louisiana.

Case closed? I certainly hope so. But it’s not like the Feds haven’t been confronted with challenging evidence before. Back when this story broke more than a month ago, I pointed you to analysis done by the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick: 7 of 8 existing high-quality studies already showed school choice decreases segregation.

Well, make that 8 out of 9 now. Anna Egalite and Jonathan Mills have performed a valuable service with their latest research. If anything, the Department of Justice should be applauding the Louisiana Scholarship Program, not trying to deprive students of an important choice. Maybe the 3-day partial government shutdown will give them time to think it over.

While they’re thinking it over, you could bring your own lunch tomorrow and join my friends to hear from someone who has stepped forward to defend educational civil rights.