By Russell Berman - 08/25/13 07:38 PM EDT
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Sunday criticized the Department of Justice for filing a petition to stop the state from distributing private school vouchers to students in some areas.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jindal touted a program that would expand a voucher program in New Orleans to allow students in other parts of the state to use public money to attend private schools. The Justice Department said in a court filing that nearly 600 of the students receiving vouchers were in a district that remained under desegregation orders.
He cited improvements in performance in New Orleans, where 90 percent of students attend charter schools and twice as many are reading and doing math at grade level.
“Eight thousand of those parents have chosen to take these dollars and send their kids to better schools, to other schools, where they can get a better education, where it's a better fit for their children,” Jindal said. “Now the Department of Justice, using the same rules that were there to prevent discrimination against minority children, is going after some of these parents and some of these kids and saying, ‘We don't know that we want to allow you to make this choice. We want you to have to go to a federal judge.’”
The Justice Department move drew criticism from other Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Speaking amid commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Jindal cited education as the nation’s preeminent civil rights issue.
“When it comes to the American dream, I think the next great civil rights fight is really about making sure that every child has a great education,” he said.
“Let's be honest,” Jindal continued. “We all like to say we're for equal opportunity and education. But that's not the reality in America,” he added, pointing to disparities in access between rich and poor families.
“There are too many kids in this country today trapped in poor neighborhoods with poor, failing public schools,” he said. “In Louisiana, we're doing something about it.”