BATON ROUGE, LA — In a letter sent on Monday, Sept. 30, Governor Bobby Jindal invited President Barack Obama to Louisiana to meet with parents participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit that argues the voucher program will impede desegregation efforts. It seeks to prevent the state from awarding future vouchers to students. Governor JIndal hopes the visit would make him reconsider an administration lawsuit against the program.
Below is the full letter:
Dear President Obama,
As you know, on August 22, 2013, your Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court attempting to force Louisiana parents who have children enrolled or wishing to enroll in the Louisiana Scholarship Program to receive authorization from the federal courts before joining the program for the 2014-2015 school year. As you are aware, if this suit were successful, it would effectively force thousands of low-income and mostly minority families to keep their children trapped in failing schools.
Ironically, this suit was first announced at the time of the 50 year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington. The people of Louisiana do not understand how ripping low-income minority students out of good schools helps them achieve their dreams. Even more ironic, your Department of Justice is attempting to use old rules designed to prevent discrimination against minority children to try and keep these children trapped in failing schools.
To date, your Administration has been virtually silent on this matter, perhaps hoping that it will just go away. It will not go away, and the dreams of thousands of children will not simply fade away.
I would like to invite you and Attorney General Holder to come to Louisiana to join me for a day at one of our schools that accepts Scholarship Program students. I am sure you would agree that it is critical to sit down with parents and students who are enrolled in the program to discuss their experiences at the new schools and how it compares to the experiences at their previous failing schools. I believe if you and the Attorney General are able to hear firsthand from parents about the experiences their children are having in the program, then you will reconsider the suit filed by the Department of Justice
In Louisiana, we have worked very hard to improve our public school system. During my tenure as Governor, we have increased spending on K-12 education by over 12 percent despite a reduction in our total state budget over the same period. We have also instituted reforms to demand excellence from public school teachers and administrators, and we have removed the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Louisiana.
We know our reforms are working. High school graduation rates have hit an all-time high, Louisiana is a national leader in student improvement at charter schools, and student performance is up at K-12 public schools statewide. Furthermore, average public school teacher salaries in Louisiana have increased by more than $2,000 over the past five years.
However, it takes time to fix some of our failing public schools that have been in disrepair for far too long – time that our children do not have. Our children only grow up once and every single child, no matter race or income level, deserves an equal opportunity to get a great education. That is why we started the Louisiana Scholarship Program that gives kids a chance to escape failing public schools and have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
I think it is only right that you and Attorney General Holder join me and come visit a scholarship school in Louisiana to look into the faces of the parents and kids and try to explain to them why you want to force them back into failing schools.
Finally Mr. President, I would respectfully remind you of your own comments about what a great education means to our children. In the 2010 State of the Union address you said, “the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education…And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.”
I agree with you Mr. President, and that is why the actions of the Department of Justice, which contradict and undermine the vision you described, are so frustrating.
I look forward to your response. The parents and children participating in the program deserve to have their voices heard.
Governor Bobby Jindal
cc: Attorney General Eric Holder