Court: Louisiana Doesn't Have To Continue Voucher Reports

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court says the Justice Department cannot require Louisiana to provide periodic reports on enrollment and racial information on students participating in the state's private school tuition voucher program.

         U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ordered the reports in April 2014. He ruled that they are needed to make sure Louisiana complies with a 1975 desegregation order about state money going to private schools.

         State officials have said the ruling won't impede the program and didn't appeal the order. But some voucher families argued that the ruling resulted from a Justice Department effort to "stifle" the voucher program.

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         In a 2-1 ruling on Tuesday, the 5th Circuit said Lemelle's order exceeded his jurisdiction in the case. The Justice Department has not yet said whether it will appeal.

         Louisiana's voucher program provides private school tuition for some low- and moderate-income families whose children would otherwise attend low-performing public schools. It was greatly expanded under Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2012.

         Tuesday's ruling has roots in a 2013 Justice Department motion in the case of Brumfield v. Dodd, the desegregation lawsuit that resulted in the 1975 desegregation order.

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         Justice officials first sought an injunction blocking the issuance of future vouchers in districts under desegregation orders unless the state first obtained permission from the appropriate federal court — a move branded by Jindal and other voucher supporters as an Obama Administration attack on vouchers. Justice Department attorneys later backed away from seeking an injunction continued to seek information.

         Lemelle's April ruling outlining data that the state should provide was hailed by both the Jindal administration and the Justice Department as a victory, with Jindal saying the ruling won't impede the voucher program and didn't grant Justice officials "veto power" over vouchers.

         But pro-voucher groups still objected and intervened in the case, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute and the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options.

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         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill




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