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Segregation, Vouchers, Evidence, and Politics

New examination finds no educational or legal basis for Louisiana Gov. Jindal’s
voucher-related campaign against the US Department of Justice


Kevin Welner, (303) 492-8370,

URL for this press release:


BOULDER, CO (November 6, 2013) -- The past several months have seen a well-orchestrated political outcry, led by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, attacking the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for filing a legal motion in a long-standing desegregation case. The motion asks the court to require Louisiana to collect and report relevant data about the impact of that state’s voucher policy on racial segregation.

The political campaign against the DOJ raises legal and educational issues involving vouchers and racial segregation. Much Ado about Politics, a Policy Memo published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), concludes that the DOJ’s motion is routine, is important, and is in fact consistent with wording in the Louisiana voucher law itself. According to author and NEPC director Kevin Welner, “Jindal and other opponents either misunderstand or misrepresent the DOJ’s actions.”

Louisiana’s new voucher law may undermine established desegregation orders issued as a result of unconstitutional discrimination by the state of Louisiana as well as many of its school districts. The recent DOJ motion is not designed to stop the implementation of the state’s voucher program. Instead, the motion seeks to bring the program within the scope of existing law and to avoid predictable harm to children that would occur if the racial isolation of Louisiana students were increased.

Governor Jindal and his allies have argued that such segregation-related orders and concerns should be set aside because the voucher law allows some students to transfer away from schools that are not rated “A” or “B”. Implicit in this argument, which is generally wrapped in civil-rights rhetoric, is the empirical claim that implementation of the voucher policy will meaningfully improve those students’ opportunities to learn.

Policy Memo author Kevin Welner explains the flaw in Jindal’s argument, “The research evidence offers little reason to expect any meaningful academic advantage from vouchers. But the evidence does offer reason to expect that the vouchers may result in greater segregation.” While there is nothing inherent in a voucher policy that makes it likely to increase segregation; the specific design and implementation of the policy are key.”

Welner, an attorney and policy analyst, cautions: “A serious attempt to avoid segregation would begin with a look at the evidence of how a given policy is actually playing out. The politicians currently attacking the DOJ are wrong to try to divert attention from the evidence we have about the impacts of voucher programs.”

The NEPC policy memo, Much Ado about Politics (and Much Ignored about Research Evidence): Analyzing the Voucher/Desegregation Dispute between Gov. Jindal and the US Department of Justice, can be found on the NEPC website at

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on NEPC, please visit