GOP wins one for blue-collar parents in Louisiana

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama’s justice department has retreated one step in its campaign to impose racial quotas on Louisiana schools — and GOP leaders are claiming a share of the win.

“This is a huge victory for so many families and students whom the Department of Justice tried to deny the best possible education,” said a statement from Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, after a federal court in Louisiana announced that the Justice Department had changed the legal strategy it is pursuing against school vouchers.

On Friday, a court said that Obama’s lawyers had given up on a claim demanding that education vouchers for each white, black and Latino kid be held up by federal authorities, on the grounds that school choice could change the racial composition of schools.

The DOJ’s new demand is that all vouchers be subject to 45-day legal review.

The change is a big win for Cantor and other high-powered House Republicans who have championed the school choice revolution in post-Katrina New Orleans.

GOP leaders are joining the fight partly because of their ideological support for school choice, but also to showcase support for American parents who are struggling to rescue their kids from failing, crime-ridden, autocratic, union-controlled, mandatory government-run schools.

Their participation, however, is also part of the GOP’s post-2012 effort to show support for working-class parents.

The need for outreach to working-class and middle-class voters was underlined by Gov. Mitt Romney’s poor showing in Midwest states and among lower-income white, black and Latino voters.

Numerous GOP politicians, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as well as Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, have called for greater outreach and policy changes to aid lower-income voters.

The effort will likely get more attention from GOP leaders in 2014.

Shortly after the 2012 election, top GOP officials announced that they would seek to boost support among Latinos by dramatically increasing the inflow of new, low-wage Latino workers. In June, several GOP Senators joined with the Senate’s Democratic majority to pass a bill that would up legal immigration to 30 million over the next decade.

However, that push has stalled amid polls showing that voters strongly oppose any increased inflow of workers during a period of high unemployment, automation, outsourcing and stalled wages.

Last week, Cantor prodded Obama to visit the city’s new schools when he flew to the Big Easy to give a speech. “It is inconceivable to me why the President would visit New Orleans and ignore the at-risk children he is harming with his lawsuit against Louisiana,” according to a Nov. 8 statement from his office.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the Speaker of the House, has also championed school choice in the face of opposition from Obama and his aides.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has fought Obama’s lawyers tooth-and-nail to protect the state’s Louisiana Scholarship program.

“We are pleased that the Obama Administration has given up its attempt to end the Louisiana Scholarship Program with this absurd lawsuit, Jindal said in a statement Monday.

“It is great the Department of Justice has realized, at least for the time being, it has no authority to end equal opportunity of education for Louisiana children,” said Jindal.

However, Jindal warned that Obama’s officials are still looking for new ways to block school choice.

“The Department of Justice’s new position is that it wants bureaucrats in Washington to have the authority to decide where Louisiana children get an education,” Jindal said Monday.

“The fight isn’t over,” Cantor added. “Obama still believes Washington knows better than Louisiana parents. The Justice Department is still requesting the court allow a federal review process of the program, and that’s unacceptable.”

“We must continue to provide all parents with more choice so every boy and girl, regardless of their income or background, has a chance to succeed,” said Cantor’s office.

Follow Neil on Twitter