Vouchers can’t wait: Was Jindal’s haste to enact vouchers really about his vice presidential ambitions?

When it comes to any wholesale government reform, it’s usually best to take the time to do it right. Among other things, that means exhaustive committee hearings and ample debate.

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BobbyJindal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that wasn’t Gov. Jindal’s approach in the recent legislative session. In his mad rush to get the voucher program and other pieces of his education overhaul passed, some opponents, including teachers, weren’t even allowed inside the Capitol to comment on the bills.

Listen to an abbreviated podcast of this commentary at WRKF’s website

Jindal’s haste rankled some opponents who wanted time to examine the details. Jindal told them reform could not wait.

So this fall thousands of students from low-income families will be attending private schools on the public dime.

In the rush to get the voucher program going, state education officials have made some glaring missteps. For example, they initially approved a Ruston school to enroll 315 voucher students. But that school – which had no library, and has provided much of its instruction with DVDs – did not have the capacity to accept that many students, and is now being allowed to enroll only half that number.

And now, only this week, we learn of another embarrassing voucher development. Jindal’s education officials have awarded 163 voucher slots — worth about $700,000 a year — to the Light City Church School of the Prophets. Here’s how school officials describe their institution on their website:

The Light City Church School of the Prophets is a training institute for those who sense the flow and pull of the prophetic upon their lives. The mandate of the school of the Prophets just as it was in the Old Testament days is to train men and women effectively in the prophetic. It is a time of proper training, mentoring, and developing of the spirit in the prophetic realm. It is a time that you are taught how to hear from God, how to speak the mind of God, and how to nurture the gift of prophecy.Those individuals that accept the challenge to attend must have an understanding that they are yielding themselves to the tutelage of Apostle Leonard Lucas Jr., who walks in the fullness of his calling and wears the mantle of an Apostle and Prophet.

How did this happen? We don’t know.

Despite much talk by Jindal about transparency, he and his aides haven’t been very forthcoming about how they set the standards for and vetted the private and church-based schools to which they awarded voucher slots.

Why the hurry?

It may be that Jindal just cares deeply about education reform. But there’s another reason that makes just as much sense.

A governor who spends a great deal of time traveling the country speaking to Republican audiences needs talking points. And there are few issues that warm the hearts of movement conservatives more than private school vouchers.

So, Jindal may well have been pushing vouchers for the sake of Louisiana’s children, but he’s also burnishing his national credentials and making a case, perhaps, to become Mitt Romney’s running mate.

And so, it appears, he’s not only overhauling education in Louisiana, he’s investing considerable time and effort educating national Republican leaders about Bobby Jindal.

That’s another education program, it seems, that just couldn’t wait.

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