Education

May 5, 2014 5:54 PM by associated press

Pro-voucher group wants judge to back off order

Supporters of a private school tuition voucher program asked a federal judge Monday to cancel his April order requiring that Louisiana provide regular reports on the program to federal officials.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle's order requires that Louisiana provide federal officials with a variety of reports, including lists and information on voucher applicants and periodic reports on enrollment and racial breakdowns at state public schools.

The voucher supporters say Lemelle has no jurisdiction over the program and that the program does not violate orders in a decades-old desegregation case over which Lemelle presides.

The motion comes despite the fact that both Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, who have been at odds over the program, both said they were pleased with Lemelle's ruling last month.

The voucher program provides taxpayer-funded private school tuition to some low- and moderate-income families whose children would otherwise go to a low-performing public school. Jindal is a strong voucher advocate and pushed the current program through the Legislature in 2012.

Last August, the Justice Department sought to block the state from issuing future vouchers in districts under desegregation orders unless the state first obtained permission from the appropriate federal court. Justice attorneys later backed away from seeking such an injunction but continued to seek information.

Jindal has cast the Justice Department efforts as an effort by President Barack Obama's administration to deny low-income students a chance to attend better schools. But, last month, in a statement, Jindal said Lemelle's ruling was a victory because it didn't give the Justice Department power to block vouchers and it would not impede the scholarship program.

The motion filed Monday names five parents and the Black Alliance for Educational Options as interveners in the case. It was filed by attorneys for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute.

"The State strongly resisted such orders, and last month the court ruled that the Justice Department would be entitled only to limited information about the students and schools affected by the program. But so long as the court retains jurisdiction, it leaves the door open to more extensive orders," a news release from the Goldwater Institute said.

The state Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

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