WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is calling the U.S. Department of Justice to account for the four years it has spent investigating Milwaukee’s pioneering parental school choice program and other school choice programs in Wisconsin.
The department since 2011 has been investigating claims by a couple of activist groups that students with disabilities could be discriminated against in the school choice program, which allows disadvantaged children to use their state school aid at private schools. While Senator Johnson takes any such allegations seriously, the department’s investigation “does not appear to have yielded any evidence of discrimination or any statistical or empirical trends of discrimination,” he points out in his letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“I have concerns that this investigation is fueled by the Administration’s opposition to school choice programs, not by any wrongdoing in the Wisconsin program,” Senator Johnson writes, noting Department of Justice attempts to shut down school choice in Louisiana and the Obama administration’s attempt to cut off funding for school choice in Washington, D.C. “I find it especially troubling that these actions by the Administration and the DOJ may only create further harm to those students and their families who seek to escape the cycle of poverty through improved educational opportunities afforded by school choice programs,” he writes.
The letter asks the Department of Justice to:
- Explain the reason for its investigation into Wisconsin school choice.
- Provide copies of any discrimination complaints filed with the state and the state’s response.
- Provide its instructions to schools in the Wisconsin choice program.
- Provide any reports or findings from its four-year investigation.
“School choice has given opportunity to tens of thousands of Wisconsin children and hope to their families for more than two decades,” said Johnson on Tuesday. “The committee that I chair, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has the duty to oversee the ‘efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of all agencies’ of the federal government. We owe it to the Wisconsin families depending on the school choice program to ensure that the Department of Justice’s investigation was not undertaken — nor continues to drag on — for the purpose of undermining this successful program.”