Louisiana’s voucher system increases school segregation


by David Safier

Among the concerns about charter schools is that they're more segregated than school district schools. Now the Justice Department is looking carefully at Louisiana's voucher program because it appears to be increasing school segregation. Many Louisiana districts are still being monitored by the Feds because of segregation problems, much like TUSD which has its own deseg order. An increase in Louisiana's school segregation as a result of vouchers could mean they will be thrown out.

States like Louisiana with school districts subject to federal oversight are tasked with assessing the impact educational changes will have on efforts to desegregate. DOJ argues that Louisiana fell short of its legal duty when it failed to even consider the impact that the voucher program would have on desegregation. While the Department of Justice was able to obtain some data on the impacts of school vouchers, it predicted that its findings greatly underestimate the degree of re-segregation, because they were not able to obtain full data from the state.

Every large scale study of the achievement of similar students in district schools, charters and private schools has concluded there is no significant difference in the quality of education between the three types of schools. However, studies have concluded that charters and private schools tend to be more segregated than district schools. The disturbing fact is, district schools today are no less segregated than they were during the March on Washington 50 years ago. Increases in the number of charter schools and the growing number of states adopting vouchers are pushing us backward.

The voucher program is a favorite of Governor Bobby Jindal, who, it's worth noting, is the most unpopular GOP governor in the country. His voucher system managed to weather an earlier state court challenge, but it may not weather this federal challenge. Seeing as how Americans like vouchers less today than they did a year ago — only 29% are in favor of vouchers and 70% oppose them — the people of Louisiana probably don't feel like they're losing much.


  1. The issue isn’t segregation, it is racial attitudes. Our two most integrated schools were the scene of race riots back in the 80s. Blacks and Hispanics duking it out. Our Catholic schools do an incredibly good job of creating positive racial relations and a commitment to social justice. That’s why Catholics are way over represented among democrat legislators. And, that’s the real reason we need vouchers. When you see a US Senators son take on the name nigger killer, you have to ask, where did he get that – not from a Catholic school – he went to an exclusive public school.

  2. No wonder why John McCain and Jan Brewer wants vouchers for schools, it will increase segregation.It’s no secret that both of them are real racist. John McCain even voted against the MLK Holiday!

  3. I hate the fact that segregation comes into this argument at all, because everyone automatically thinks of legal segregation and Jim Crow laws. Are there schools and areas in Louisiana that are segregated? Yes. The difference is that they are the result of voluntary segregation, which the government has no business meddling with. There are several majority black neighborhoods, but no one forced them to live there. They chose to live there. And if the surrounding neighborhoods are majority black, then logically the schools will be majority black.

    Demographic segregation is normal. The Greater New Orleans Area is home to Little Vietnam, where Vietnamese voluntarily segregated themselves; I don’t see anyone complaining about Little Vietnam. And what about all the Chinatowns, Little Italy’s, etc. across the country? Those are all examples of voluntary segregation. If you go to any place with a cultural/demographic mix, people will still tend to group/segregate themselves based on what they like and know.

    If anything, the voucher program is likely helping to reduce segregation. The children in the schools with the worst academic reputations in New Orleans – reputations that may or may not be baseless – tend to be majority black schools. Vouchers give them the change to go to a school that might be less-heavily majority black. If you’re so worried about segregation, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

    Now, do I like the voucher program? Yes and no. I like the idea that kids that would otherwise be forced to go to poor schools based purely on where they live would get a chance to go to a different school. However, I don’t like the idea of public funds being used to send kids to private schools, especially when it’s been revealed that the public schools are charging an inflated tuition to voucher students. Why is *that* not the focus of the debate against vouchers, rather than the supposed segregation?

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