WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Congressional Republicans said a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit against Louisiana's school voucher program could deny "countless children" a better education.
The Justice Department filed suit in August seeking to prevent Louisiana from handing out tuition vouchers for private schools in any public school district still covered by a desegregation court order.
Court documents indicate the state distributed vouchers in the 2012-13 school year to nearly 600 students in such districts and the Justice Department said "many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process."
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said the department's "allegation that the Louisiana Program could impede the desegregation process is extremely troubling and paradoxical in nature."
"If DOJ is successful in shutting down this invaluable school choice initiative, not only will students across Louisiana be forced to remain in failing schools, but it could have a reverberating effect and cause other states to feel pressured to shut down similar initiatives that provide countless children the opportunity to receive a better education ... ," the GOP leaders wrote.
"Instead of undermining choice and opportunity in education, the administration should support state and local efforts to provide more education options," the letter said. "We strongly urge you to consider the effects of this poorly conceived motion on the very children you profess to be protecting."
The letter asks Holder to respond by Oct. 1, explaining how the lawsuit will help children "access better education opportunities," and detailing all meetings and written communications the department has had with "outside groups or individuals" or "outside interests" on the issue.