Parents May Intervene in School Voucher Fracas
(CN) - As Louisiana's school-voucher program faces litigation to ensure its compliance with desegregation orders, a federal judge has allowed parents to intervene.
Louisiana's voucher program, established in 2012, offers funding to low-income parents with children in failing schools, so they may send them to private schools of their own choosing.
To keep Louisiana from issuing school vouchers to students in school districts under federal desegregation orders, the U.S. government sued for an injunction in August 2013.
It claimed that the transfer of students to schools outside the public system will "cause irreparable injury to the court-ordered desegregation process."
Parents who have chosen to participate in the program and oppose an injunction sought leave to intervene in the case, but a federal judge shot them down because an injunction was no longer on the table.
The government now seeks the creation of a process that would let it monitor the implementation of the voucher program and its effect on desegregating schools.
A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit found Thursday that the parents still have an interest in the litigation.
"It is not credible for the United States to claim that the relief it is now seeking differs from the relief the parents opposed in the August motion, in which it sought to enjoin the program unless and until the State receives authorization from the appropriate federal court overseeing the applicable desegregation case," Judge Jerry Smith wrote for the three-judge panel in New Orleans (italics in original).
The U.S. says it has no intention of halting the voucher program, but it also claims that the desegregation orders do require some amendments.
"If a modification of the decree requiring court approval means anything, it signifies that the government will have the ability to attempt to adjust some element of the Scholarship Program - either by changing which students receive the aid or changing the schools in which they are placed - if not to urge that the program be killed entirely," Smith wrote.
The parents need to show only the possibility, without 100 percent certainty, that this litigation will impair their interests.
"It would indeed be a questionable rule that would require prospective intervenors to wait on the sidelines until after a court has already decided enough issues contrary to their interests," the 12-page opinion concludes.