By PHILIP ELLIOTT / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday demanded that federal officials abandon their challenge of his state's voucher system, accusing the Justice Department of being more interested in doing favors for teacher unions than helping students.
In an appearance blocks from the Justice Department that was just as much about politics as policy, Jindal said President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder would not send their children to failing schools but are fighting against a program that helps students from low-income families attend better schools.
Jindal, a Republican considering a 2016 presidential bid, said Obama and Holder are denying students in his state the same opportunities their own children enjoy.
"Our children only grow up once. They only get one chance to get a good education," Jindal said.
Louisiana's school voucher program has become a political flashpoint, with congressional Republicans this week joining critics of the Justice Department's lawsuit, which seeks to block Louisiana from issuing new tuition vouchers in some districts still under desegregation orders. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who has championed education reform efforts, joined Jindal in demanding the Justice Department back down.
"This is purely political," said Bush, the son or brother to two U.S. presidents who is being urged to run in 2016. "I have no idea why they made this decision."
About 8,000 Louisiana students are attending private or parochial schools through the voucher program, costing the state an estimated $45 million this budget year.