By Robert Mann
At the time, I and many others noted some serious problems with the legislation. My major concern then, as now, is that the whole mess was likely motivated by Jindal’s desire to get noticed by Mitt Romney, then shopping for a running mate.
In his haste to get a “reform” law on the books, Jindal rammed a sloppy, ill-considered bill through the Legislature. Now, he has a disaster on his hands.
Looking back, I realize that I went too easy on his feckless handmaidens in the Legislature who, instead of exercising good, independent judgment, just did as they were told. This isn’t just Jindal’s law; it belongs to the lapdogs we sometimes call “legislators.”
Here’s what I wrote in July about the mess that Jindal created:
There’s an old saying in carpentry: measure twice, cut once. That means you have one chance to properly cut your wood.
This advice might also apply to education reform. When overhauling your state’s education system, it’s best to take time to get it right.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the approach employed by Governor Bobby Jindal and his allies in the recent legislative session. Instead, Jindal rammed through his education changes, with little debate, in the session’s first couple of weeks.
Legislators had little time for constructive debate; the public had even less time for informed comment about an issue the governor never really discussed during his re-election campaign.
The result was what Jindal apparently wanted — greater accountability for public schools, the destruction of teacher tenure, and a voucher system that will help fund the private school tuition of thousands of lower-income students in failing schools.
Some of Jindal’s changes may work. They may fail. Jindal will be long gone before we know for sure.
But one thing we do know: in building the new structure of Louisiana education, Jindal measured only once and cut his lumber in haste.
The sloppy woodcutting for Jindal’s voucher house is most apparent. It’s a structure without accountability measures for private schools and it will rob the public school system of revenue.
In fact, the house is already teetering.
In one of several embarrassing revelations that exposed their sloppiness, state education officials awarded 314 vouchers to a Christian school in Ruston – the Living Word school – which has no library and whose students now receive televised instruction mostly from DVDs.
After education department officials awarded 119 voucher slots to a small private school in DeRidder, we learned that the registered agent for the school is on probation for writing bad checks.
Another school, Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, got 135 slots. The school, however, refuses to teach evolution, but it does use textbooks that teach students that Japanese fisherman once snagged a dinosaur and that the Loch Ness monster is not a myth.
That, of course, didn’t seem to bother legislators or the governor. But, God forbid, that in awarding public money to religious institutions, we should fund any school run by Muslims.
Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges of Watson confessed her horror at learning that taxpayer support of religious school could also mean funding for Muslim schools. Hodges apparently does not regard Islam as a religion.
Muslims, I guess, don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster.
In building their new Louisiana education system, Jindal and Co. enacted all kinds of new accountability measures for public schools. But, strangely, they opted to shower private schools with millions in public dollars without any of the accountability measures so important for public schools.
As summarized nicely by the Louisiana Budget Project, “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to dramatically increase the number of students who can attend private schools at public expense is missing a key safeguard: strong oversight and accountability to ensure kids are learning and that taxpayer money is being well-spent. Unfortunately, the governor has rejected all suggestions that private schools be held accountable for their performance in the same way as public schools. Instead, his plans would hand over public resources to private schools with no strings attached.”
As one national commentator observed, “So if public schools have lousy test scores, they’re failures and their students all get vouchers. But if the private schools have lousy test scores, then . . . nothing. Presumably the magic of the free market will fix them up.”
While we don’t know for sure why Jindal was in such a hurry to ram through these so-called education reforms (can you say “Vice President Jindal”?), we do know is that he and legislators were sloppy carpenters when building this new house of education.
They’ve wasted good lumber. And, at some point, like most shoddy builders, they’ll have to do the job over again.
- Bobby Jindal’s fictional education “reforms” (bobmannblog.com)