AMITE, La.-A handful of education organizations are asking the Department of Justice to drop a lawsuit challenging Louisiana's voucher program.

The agency filed the petition over the weekend claiming the program interferes with desegregation efforts in 34 parishes, including St. Tammany and Tangipahoa.The lawsuit calls on the state to get permission from the judges presiding over those desegregation cases to operate with vouchers in those school districts.

It's estimated that 600 students currently in non-public schools, paid for with public money, could be affected by the lawsuit.Two of those students attend Northlake Christian School in St. Tammany Parish, and Mitzi Crain-Dillon is their mother.

'I just hope everybody that's listening and hearing just supports this because our kids need to come first,'she said.

Crain joined the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Louisiana American Federation for Children Tuesday morning in Amite to explain why they believe the D.O.J.'s claim that vouchers interfere with desegregation efforts makes no sense.

Director of the Louisiana American Federation for Children Ann Duplesis said, '91 percent of the children in the program are of a minority. 86 percent are African-American. It is unheard of and offensive to believe that the very laws that were created to help our children get out of depressed and failing situations are now hurting kids.'

'We think that the department is fighting the wrong battle at the wrong time in history and we would argue that you cannot use tactics and remedies that applied to a situation 50 years ago and now try to make that work 50 years later,' said BAEO Board Chair Dr. Howard Fuller.

Teachers unions that kicked off the challenges against the reform program say while other organizations have their opinions on this matter, they have one too.

'We believe that it's another strike against the whole reform initiative,' said Debbie Meaux with the Louisiana Association of Educators.

And it's one the L.A.E. agrees with.

'It's just not right,' said Meaux, 'Every citizen must follow the law and our state needs to follow the desegregation orders.These have been in place for more than 30 years and we need to make sure desegregation continues in our state.'

The outcome of this lawsuit, if it involves any changes, will apply to next school year.The first hearing in this case is set for the middle of next month in a federal courtroom in New Orleans.
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