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U.S. House GOP Leaders Want Answers on La. Voucher Program

By Alyson Klein — September 17, 2013 2 min read

Some very big-name congressional Republicans—including U.S. Rep. John A. Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives—are not very happy with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his handling of the Louisiana voucher court case.

Quick recap: Last year, Louisiana—whose GOP governor, Bobby Jindal, is considered a potential presidential contender—expanded its voucher program statewide. But the Justice Department said the voucher program ran afoul of the state’s court-ordered desegregation plan. The program distributed 5,000 scholarships last year, 91 percent of which went to minority students, according to a fact sheet distributed by Boehner’s office. The issue will be debated in a federal court in New Orleans soon. Everything else you could want to know about the state-of-play can be found in this great story by my colleague, Mark Walsh, of The School Law Blog.

The Justice Department’s actions didn’t sit well with Boehner (a big champion of the District of Columbia voucher program), Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Majority Leader, or Reps. John Kline, the chairman of the House education committee, and Todd Rokita, the chairman of the K-12 policy subcommittee, plus other key GOP leaders.

In a letter sent today to Holder, they called the Justice Department’s actions “paradoxical” and said that if the department 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 shut down similar initiatives that provide countless children the opportunity to receive a better education.”

And the leaders had a list of questions for Holder. Specifically, they want to know how the Justice Department’s decision to “revoke scholarships and eliminate education choices” will help students, particularly low-income and minority students. They also want to know which individuals and outside groups Holder met with on this issue. (My guess is that they’ll do a political dance of joy if the National Education Association shows up on this list.) They also want copies of all written communication among administration officials on the voucher program—and any written communication with outside groups.

The leaders are hoping for a detailed response by Oct. 1. So don’t expect this issue to go away anytime soon.

Where does U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fit in, when it comes to all this? During an appearance on the Diane Rehm show earlier this month, he said he was “not familiar” with the lawsuit.

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