A Wall Street Journal editorial is mischaracterizing the Department of Justice's attempts to bring Louisiana into compliance with long-standing school desegregation orders as motivated by pro-union biases.
The editorial follows a long line of conservative media attacks against the DOJ's decision to file a lawsuit against Louisiana, asking a federal court to block the state's controversial voucher program. Despite the fact that Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal began issuing vouchers before seeking the required judicial approval, he insists that the DOJ's suit is nothing more than a scheme to advance the interests of teachers unions, a baseless charge the WSJ editorial board continues to repeat.
After accusing Education Secretary Arne Duncan of “plead[ing] ignorance” for refusing to comment on the DOJ lawsuit (neither Duncan nor the Department of Education are parties to the suit), in a September 6 editorial the WSJ went on to suggest that the “real motive” for the suit is a pro-teachers union agenda on the part of the DOJ:
[Jindal] got to the heart of the matter by noting that the real motive for this lawsuit is union politics. The teachers unions have been trying to block the voucher plan by any means possible, but so far they've failed. Bringing in the feds for a desegregation gambit is merely the latest attempt.
Jindal maintains that vouchers represent the next stage of the civil rights struggle by offering minority students at failing schools a "choice," but the DOJ argues that vouchers actually “impeded the desegregation process.” More importantly, right-wing media have largely ignored the existence of numerous long-standing court orders that require Louisiana to obtain permission from a federal judge before making any changes to the education system that might negatively impact desegregation efforts.
Instead, right-wing media are accusing the Obama administration of "inhumane" treatment of students of color and comparing Attorney General Eric Holder to infamous former Alabama Gov. George Wallace who sought to illegally maintain segregation in schools. For its part, the WSJ claims that “studies” show that “voucher recipients increase integration by letting minority children escape geographic school boundaries.”
The DOJ's suit is in direct response to the fact that Jindal ignored the requirements of court orders that have been in place for decades. According to its motion, 34 school districts in the state are still subject to federal oversight because they have failed to adequately integrate their student bodies in the 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education. The WSJ's focus on the union's role in this lawsuit is misleading, and it ignores the fact that Louisiana is required by law to assess how changes to their public school system might affect racial integration. Jindal requested more time to respond to the DOJ's lawsuit because he says data on how vouchers would affect desegregation efforts "do not even exist yet."
The DOJ's lawsuit is a straightforward attempt to prevent Louisiana from violating the law and reversing decades of progress, not solely a favor to teachers or their unions. Unfortunately, the WSJ seems willing to blatantly ignore and misrepresent court orders in place to rectify the persistent segregation in Louisiana schools in order to continue its attacks against unions.