Archive for September, 2013

Is Holder Starting To Realize What A Mess The Voucher Suit Is?

By Scott McKay via The Hayride

Yesterday, an announcement by the Department of Justice appeared to signal “an end” to its lawsuit against the state of Louisiana over the desegregation implications of the latter’s school voucher program. This item appeared at the Washington Post’s site

Under the supervision of a federal court, Louisiana has agreed to supply the Justice Department with data about its controversial school voucher program and to analyze whether the vouchers are re-segregating schools that are under federal orders to achieve a balance between white and black students.

In a letter Tuesday to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik called the agreement a “significant breakthrough” in the standoff between Louisiana and the Justice Department over the voucher program.

Except the Jindal administration seized upon the DOJ’s media initiative and hammered it mercilessly…

Governor Bobby Jindal blasted the U.S. Department of Justice’s P.R. stunt today when the department sent a letter to U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner citing a legal motion that attempts to rebrand the Obama Administration’s legal challenge to the Louisiana Scholarship Program, but continues to seek to impede the scholarship program.

Governor Jindal said that despite the Obama Administration’s claims today that it is backing down from their opposition to the Louisiana Scholarship Program, the U.S. Department of Justice has not with withdrawn its request for an injunction prohibiting the Louisiana Scholarship Program from granting scholarships for next school year unless a federal court first approves parents’ decisions about where they want to send their children to school.

Governor Jindal said, “The Obama Administration’s latest maneuver is nothing more than a P.R. stunt. While attempting to rebrand its legal challenge as merely an attempt to seek information about implementation of the scholarship program, the administration’s real motive still stands – forcing parents to go to federal court to seek approval for where they want to send their children to school.

“The Obama Administration’s letter is disingenuous. The administration claims the state is suddenly providing information, when in reality, the information the federal government is seeking does not even exist yet. And they know it.

“The federal government is attempting to retreat in name only, but is not backing off its attack on Louisiana parents. The Obama Administration is doubling down on its belief that bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. know better than Louisiana parents.

“The only real retreat is to drop the lawsuit entirely and move on from this backwards lawsuit that is trying to deny equal opportunity for Louisiana children.”

Jindal’s rhetoric was perhaps needlessly combative, but it’s clear that DOJ has gone from declaring the voucher program violative of desegregation orders and seeking an injunction stopping its implementation in 22 parishes for the next academic year to seeking…something else. Exactly what that is, at this point, isn’t clear.

The letter to Boehner came in response to a letter the Speaker had sent to Holder suggesting that he drop the suit. The Baton Rouge Advocate covers what was in DOJ’s response…

In its letter Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department reiterated it is not opposing the voucher program and is only trying to determine if desegregation orders apply to the program and whether the vouchers are harming desegregation efforts.

“To be clear, we are neither opposing Louisiana’s school voucher program nor seeking to revoke any vouchers from any students,” the letter stated. “When properly run, state and local voucher programs need not conflict with legal requirements to desegregate schools.”

The letter also added to Boehner and others that, “You should be aware that it is not clear that all of the new schools for which children are receiving vouchers in Louisiana provide opportunities that are better than or even equal to those in their old schools.”

The Justice letter specifically noted the case of New Living Word School in Lincoln Parish that initially had about 300 vouchers approved — ultimately receiving about 100 — and the school had no teachers or classrooms and only showed students educational videos.

The Justice Department said Louisiana has given vouchers this school year to students in at least 22 districts remaining under desegregation orders.

In court papers, the department said Louisiana distributed vouchers in 2012-13 to almost 600 public school students in districts that are still under such orders, and many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process.

The department cited the example of an elementary school losing five white students because of the voucher program, reinforcing the racial identity of the school as a black school.

In another example, the lawsuit said a majority-white school in a majority-black district lost six black students because of vouchers, reinforcing the school’s racial identity as a white school.

What’s at stake here, clearly, is DOJ’s interest in desegregation orders which have no relevance in the 21st century in Louisiana. The fact is that most of the 22 parishes under desegregation orders are no less segregated now than they were when those orders were installed – not because of any racist motive by school boards or politicians, but because the desegregation orders have generally so impeded the proper function of those school systems that anyone who could escape the end product of those systems by fleeing to other systems or private schools, leaving the poor to wallow in what remains.

Which the voucher program seeks to address for those parents and children who want it.

It’s an absurd situation, and the optics of it – the DOJ is suing to keep mostly poor black kids trapped in failed public schools, in places where failed public schools are largely the product of desegregation orders the DOJ helped create, because DOJ thinks the desegregation orders are more important than the freedom to attend the school you think best for you and your child – couldn’t be worse.

To Jindal’s credit, he has worked the politics of the lawsuit to his and Louisiana’s advantage by going on every TV show and op-ed page he can in order to slam the Justice Department. John Maginnis notes, though with a too-dismissive take on the import of the voucher system, the benefit the governor has derived from the suit…

Gov. Bobby Jindal may call the lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama’s administration against the state’s voucher program “cynical, immoral, hypocritical and more,” but he’s got to love the big guy for it. Had the U.S. Justice Department not intervened, Jindal’s already-embattled scholarship program may have shriveled and faded in years to come, under funding pressure from the Legislature and legal challenges from school boards and teacher unions. Instead, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder snatched it from oblivion with the high-profile lawsuit that the governor is turning into a higher-profile political issue.

That Maginnis piece was written even before the DOJ’s strange pivot to an information-gathering posture. Now it looks obvious that, having created a firestorm on its own estate, Holder and his goons are seeking a way out.

They’ll never admit it, of course, but it’s hard to see the recent developments in the case any other way.

And the lesson for states like Louisiana who find themselves beset by thuggish legal actions from DOJ aimed at derailing policies the Obama administration doesn’t favor is to fight DOJ tooth and nail, and make the biggest political stink possible over the suits.

In Louisiana’s case, the fight could produce real benefits – namely, that there is a real chance the voucher suit could result in a lifting of some or all of the desegregation orders. Their effects at this point are as absurd as the DOJ’s suit to enforce them against voucher parents.

 

Obama’s DOJ Destroys all Semblance of Decency with Attack on Louisiana’s Voucher Program

The judicial assault by President Obama’s Justice Department on Louisiana’s school voucher initiative makes me shake with anger and sick with sadness at the Administration’s absurd contention that the program violates decades-old desegregation plans.

As Clint Bolick writes in his Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, “The statewide program provides tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line whose children otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. This year, roughly 8,000 children are using vouchers to attend private schools. Among those, 91% are minority and 86% would have attended public schools with D or F grades.”

Ninety-one percent are minority — that statistic bears repeating because by definition, the federal desegregation programs of the ’70s and ’80s were expressly designed to integrate minorities and whites in public schools. What possible difference could it make if the Louisiana program — or any other state’s program for that matter — accomplishes the same goal utilizing private, parochial, or charter schools?

Teachers unions and liberal lawmakers would say the answer is rooted in money. If public money leaves a public school, then teachers will have fewer resources and the schools will surely fail. Um, hello? The schools were already failing! That’s the very reason the voucher program was created.

Justice Department regulators say the answer is the resulting disproportionate ratio in those public schools as defined in the various desegregation decrees. What a bunch of malarkey.

The real answer is politics. Justice’s move isn’t based on any education goal or principle; instead the Department’s liberal lawyers are attempting to inject race into Louisiana’s program for the express purpose of scoring a political victory over a Republican governor who garnered bipartisan legislative support to take on the failing public school morass and provide opportunity for all of Louisiana’s children, regardless of their race or socio-economic status.

Let’s face it: Louisiana’s school-age children need any and all options available, given the deplorable condition of the state’s public education system. In 2012, 464 schools received a D or F grade by the Louisiana Department of Education. The children in those schools deserve the chance to attend better programs.

Ironically, as Mr. Bolick points out, desegregation and school choice should have the same goal. “Properly understood, desegregation and school choice share a common aim: educational opportunity. In its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court made that paramount goal clear, recognizing ‘it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.'”

Despite these words of wisdom from the high court, the verdict is clear — the liberals prefer racial ratios over educational opportunity for the very children they purport to champion.

#numbersoverknowledge
#decreesoverdiplomas
#lawyersoverlearning

Conservatives Eat Their Own for Profit

By Brian Walsh, Special to U.S. News & World Report
September 12, 2013

As chairman of  the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in 2010, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), led what has been cited as the “GOP’s greatest expansion in the House since the Eisenhower Administration.”

For more than two years, Sessions spent countless hours recruiting strong candidates and raising tens of millions of dollars that were pumped into Republican campaigns around the country. On November 2, 2010, House Republicans won a net gain of 63  seats and Nancy Pelosi’s days as speaker of the House were over.

And as a congressman representing the 32nd Congressional District of  Texas  for the last 16 years, Sessions has also been a staunch conservative.  Among other distinctions, he’s received an A+ rating from the National Rifle  Association, a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life and a 97 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. His conservative  credentials are second to none.

Yet this week, the Senate Conservatives Fund – a super PAC run out  of a Capitol Hill townhouse  by operatives of former U.S. Senator Jim  DeMint – called Sessions a “Texas  RINO” (that’s a  Republican-In-Name-Only for those unfamiliar with the term) and   threatened to “actively recruit and fund a primary challenger” against  him next  year.

In a  widely-distributed fundraising email that harkened memories of General Custer exhorting his troops before the Battle of Little Bighorn, SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins went so far as to write, “We can’t sit back and let wishy-washy Republicans like Pete Sessions destroy our freedoms.”

The career-threatening offense committed by this lifelong  conservative leader? As chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions does not appear willing to help march Republicans off a political  cliff and risk the House majority by shutting down the government – cutting off checks to military families and seniors and putting at  great risk the recent spending cuts achieved through sequestration – over a fantastical fight to “defund” Obamacare.

Never-mind, of  course, that in 2011 even the Heritage Foundation,  which today has joined with SCF to attack Republicans over Obamacare,  called it a “dirty little  secret” that Obamacare can’t truly be defunded.

Never-mind, of course, that as a senator himself in 2011, now-president of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint voted for a  continuing resolution to keep the government, and hence, Obamacare, “funded,” which he and his allies equate today with supporting the law.

Never-mind that even staunchly conservative senators like Tom Coburn have correctly observed that Republicans, after failing to win control of the White House and Senate in 2012, flat-out do not have the votes currently to cut off Obamacare funding and, more importantly, to repeal-and-replace this terrible  law.

Never-mind that after funding disastrous Senate candidates like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, the Senate Conservatives Fund played a key role in the Republicans’ failure to win that Senate majority.

None of that  matters – this is about political cash, not political principle.

In fact, the Senate Conservatives  Fund and Heritage Action, the political arm of the once well-respected Heritage Foundation, have spent more money so far on attack ads this year against House  and  Senate Republicans than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee,  Democratic  Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic National  Committee,  combined. All the while, virtually every Senate Democrat up  for  re-election in 2014 – all of whom were the deciding vote on Obamacare – has  been given a free pass by these groups.

You see, money begets TV ads which  begets even more money for these  groups’ personal coffers. Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is  apparently a very profitable fundraising  business. It’s also a detriment to the future of the Republican party and the critical effort to defend the House and win back the Senate in 2014.

Fortunately, more and more conservative members of Congress are  standing up and joining with Coburn and telling these  groups, enough is enough. Roll Call yesterday quoted Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling saying recently:

The folks at Heritage Action and [the Club for  Growth] don’t have their pictures on my voting card or yours. And I’m tired of them elevating small tactical differences to a scorecard, and I’ve told them that.

While Georgia Republican Rep. Rob  Woodall said he thought Heritage Action and the Club for Growth were jeopardizing the sequester spending cuts:

“You risk losing on spending in the effort to win on Obamacare,” Woodall said. He said he thought the two groups were “overpromising” conservatives and that, even if conservatives achieve successes with spending and Obamacare, Republicans would be “underdelivering” in the minds of constituents.

And North Carolina Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers told the Washington Post last week:

“They’ve used bully tactics, and they’re going way beyond the scope of promoting conservative ideology,” she  said. “They are now trying to  influence members of Congress through what I  consider very threatening  actions.” Ellmers said she relied on Heritage  Foundation research when she was first elected in 2010 but no longer: “To me,  it is tainted.”

In the days ahead, the rest of  their Republican House colleagues have an important choice to make – to sheepishly follow groups that are currently existing solely to attack Republicans, while ignoring the  Democrats, or to focus on winning the long-term  war, and not a one day battle with a pre-determined outcome.

In our great democracy, you affect public policy by offering a vision, influencing a majority of public opinion and winning elections – not by burning down the House, attacking your allies, and falling on  your sword.