Jindal invites Obama to checkout state's voucher program firsthand

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal has asked President Barack Obama to check out Louisiana's voucher program firsthand,

saying the visit would make him scrap an administration lawsuit against the program.

Jindal sent a letter Monday to the White House inviting Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to a private school that accepts

voucher students, whose education is paid with state tax dollars.

"I am sure you would agree that it is

critical to sit down with parents and students who are enrolled in the

program to discuss

their experiences at the new schools and how it compares to the

experiences at their previous failing schools," the Republican

governor says in the letter, a copy of which was first obtained by

The Associated Press.

"I believe if you and the Attorney General are able to hear firsthand from parents about the experiences their children are

having in the program, then you will reconsider the suit," Jindal wrote.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit

in August seeking to bar Louisiana from awarding future school vouchers

to students

who otherwise would attend public schools under federal

desegregation orders — until getting clearance from a federal court.

Louisiana has 34 school districts under federal desegregation orders, and vouchers have been given to students in at least

22 of those districts, according to the Justice Department lawsuit.

The Obama administration argues that vouchers can impede desegregation efforts, skewing racial demographics of schools.

Jindal calls the lawsuit an attempt to force low-income, mostly minority children back into failing schools to appease teacher

unions that oppose vouchers as siphoning money from public schools.

"I think it is only right that you and

Attorney General Holder join me and come visit a scholarship school in

Louisiana to

look into the faces of the parents and kids and try to explain to

them why you want to force them back into failing schools,"

the governor wrote to the president.

The lawsuit has been an attention-grabbing case for Jindal, considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

He has appeared on national TV talk shows, the Republican speech circuit and editorial pages of newspapers in several states

to criticize the Justice Department effort.

Last week, the Justice Department claimed it

had reached a "breakthrough" in the dispute, saying the state agreed to

provide

additional data on voucher students the department had sought.

Jindal called that announcement a "PR stunt," saying no resolution

had been reached.

Taxpayer-financed tuition through

Louisiana's voucher program, called the Louisiana Scholarship Program,

is available to students

from low- to moderate-income families who otherwise would attend

public schools graded C, D or F in the state's performance

rating system.

About 8,000 students are attending private or parochial schools in the current school year through the voucher program, costing

the state an estimated $45 million this budget year.

In his letter, Jindal describes the voucher program as part of a package of education reforms he's worked to put in place

to improve the quality of public schools.

"However, it takes time to fix some of our failing public schools that have been in disrepair for far too long — time that

our children do not have. Our children only grow up once and every single child, no matter race or income level, deserves

an equal opportunity to get a great education," he writes.