Administration Consigliere Attorney General Eric Holder, Dream Stealer:
Give Eric Holder credit for cognitive racial dissonance. On nearly the same day the Attorney General spoke in Washington to honor the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, his Justice Department sued to block the educational dreams of minority children in Louisiana.
Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder's lawyers claim the voucher program appears "to impede the desegregation progress" required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn't be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.
Passed in 2012, Louisiana's state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.
Of course the main benefit of vouchers isn't that it improves integration but that it gives more choice and a better chance to all kids. But the fact that 90 percent of the beneficiaries are black should at least be of passing interest to Holder. Why isn't it? Ah:
Our guess—confirmed by sources in Louisiana—is that this lawsuit isn't really about integration. It's about helping the teachers union repeal the voucher law by any legal means, and the segregation gambit is the last one available. Justice gives this strategy away when it claims "jurisdiction over Louisiana" even for vouchers for students in districts without desegregation orders.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana has emerged as a leader in school reform, with city-wide charter schools in New Orleans and now statewide vouchers for the poor. A black Attorney General ought to be applauding this attempt to fulfill MLK's dream of equal educational opportunity. His lawsuit turns racial justice on its head.