Jindal’s voucher program: a vote-buying scam for the Christian right

speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washing...

Gov. Bobby Jindal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert Mann

Did you know that Gov. Bobby Jindal is a civil rights leader? Although he’s never spoken much about the subject, Jindal wants you to know that he’s a regular Martin Luther King when it comes to education. His passion, it seems, is helping poor minority children get a better education.

“The next great civil rights fight is really about making sure that every child has a great education,” Jindal said recently. That’s what he says drives his private school voucher program, enacted hastily during the 2012 legislative session.

“Giving every child — no matter race or income — the opportunity to get a great education is a moral imperative,” Jindal wrote in a recent Washington Post column denouncing a U.S. Justice Department motion that would prevent Jindal from awarding vouchers in a way that undermines almost two dozen federal school desegregation suits.

At a press event in Washington on Wednesday, Jindal said, “They are using those [desegregation] laws to trap these children in failing schools.”

Jindal cares deeply about the education of poor minority children, so much so that he has rescued 8,000 of them from “failing” public schools, giving them “scholarships” at high-quality private schools of their choosing.

At least, that’s how Jindal and his supporters hope you’ll see it.

The only problem is, that’s not reality. Here’s the reality.

  • Set aside the question of whether the schools are really failing, about 115 private Louisiana schools have accepted voucher students, but most are substandard and mediocre religious outfits. In the most recent round of LEAP testing, the scores for third- through eighth-graders in vouchers schools were terrible. Only 40 percent of voucher students managed a score of “at or above grade level” this year, compared to a state average of 69 percent.
  • Of the lists of voucher schools I consulted, only eight were not obviously church-run schools (i.e., Lafayette Christian Academy, Lighthouse Christian Preparatory School, John Paul the Great Academy, etc.).
  • According to blogger Lamar White, who has reviewed every anti-discrimination compliance report by these voucher schools, these schools are engaging in rampant discrimination, something civil rights leader Jindal completely ignores. As White explained:

Private schools, after all, are prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions. But they’re not prohibited from using religion or sexual orientation. And Louisiana’s voucher program is funding schools that actively and purposely discriminate against children who are not members of their sponsoring church. In fact, in some cases, we’re actually being asked to pay more to schools for tuition for students who don’t belong to the school’s sponsoring church than we pay for a student who does. We’re subsidizing a parallel system of schools that discriminates against kids for being gay or being physically or mentally disabled (because private schools are not subject to the same standards with respect to disabled students as public schools are).

  • And, Jindal and state Education Superintendent John White have not presented evidence to back up their claim that 90 percent of the vouchers are going to black children.

So, what’s really going on here?

Instead buying these children a better education as part of a new-found passion for civil rights, Jindal’s voucher program is really just a vote-buying operation aimed at the Christian right.

If Jindal really believed he was leading a new civil rights movement, why is he only now talking about it in these terms?

Only when the U.S. Justice Department charges that state education officials have violated federal desegregation orders by pulling minority children out of schools without court permission does an indignant Jindal shed crocodile tears for these children.

“Parents should be able to decide [where these children go to school], not bureaucrats in Baton Rouge or Washington,” Jindal wrote in his Washington Post column.

Of course, these are children whose parents Jindal also denies Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, so his concern for them is a bit suspect.

In one case, they’re also children whom Jindal’s Department of Education kept in their failing schools this summer, citing the exact federal desegregation orders that now offend him so much.

In St. Helena Parish, a group of parents recently sued the state, arguing that their children are trapped in failing schools being run by the state’s Recovery School District. White and Jindal, who preach that parents are always the best judges of which schools kids should attend, fought the parents with all their might. And they won.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn that in rebuffing these parents, White and his Department of Education argued in federal court that allowing the parents to remove their children from the RSD schools, “would likely result in a further segregative effect,” would “promote segregation,” and would “further dilute the already small white student population.”

Whatever happened to letting parents decide?

The Department of Justice responded to Jindal’s complaints this week, noting in a statement that the governor’s own voucher law says his program must comply with federal desegregation suits. “The department’s request is fully consistent with the Louisiana law that established the voucher program, which provides that the program is ‘subject to any court-ordered desegregation plan in effect for the school system in which the public school is located.’”

Truth is, if Jindal and White truly cared about these children, they would quit using them as pawns in Jindal’s national political games and really do something about the crushing poverty that cripples them and their families and undermines their success.

If they really cared, they’d make sure that they all had school-based health clinics with registered nurses to attend to their physical wellbeing. They’d make sure every child had access to a world-class pre-school program with qualified teachers. They support increasing the minimum wage so that every worker in Louisiana could support his or her family. They’d devote their efforts to helping teachers improve their performance, instead of insulting and abusing them.

And if they really cared about the quality of education in Louisiana, Jindal and White would make sure that their voucher schools and their teachers were held to the same high standards that they now apply to public schools.

But, afraid of offending his religious conservative base, Jindal would never do that.

If Jindal really regarded himself a civil rights leader devoted to the principle that parents are the best judges of where their kids should go to school, he and White would drop their cynical and hypocritical objections to earnest wishes of parents in St. Helena Parish.

Louisiana voucher students “aren’t leaving the public system, in exodus, for schools like Jesuit or Newman or St. Thomas More,” Lamar White, the blogger, told me. “They’re being outsourced to New Living Word and Cenla Christian Academy and the school run by the self-anointed prophet Leonard Lucas.

“They’re not enrolling in private schools that have gifted and talented programs or offer AP classes or the IB program,” he added. “They’re being shuffled into schools that teach from Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), aBEKA, and Bob Jones University textbooks. They’re being taught that evolution is false; the dinosaurs lived with man; the Ku Klux Klan had some noble intentions.”

(White, by the way, has posted some fascinating and very good commentary about the Louisiana voucher program on his excellent blog, Cenlamar.com.)

It’s really as simple as this: Bobby Jindal’s voucher program is a massive scam aimed at buying the good will and votes of the Christian right.

Jindal cares as much about civil rights as I care about miniature taxidermy.

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16 Responses to Jindal’s voucher program: a vote-buying scam for the Christian right

  1. John Bel Edwards says:

    Nice column, Bob. You are right on point.

    John Bel Edwards
    Edwards & Associates Law Firm, L.L.C.
    102 N. Myrtle Street
    P.O. Box 974
    Amite, Louisiana 70422
    Telephone: (985) 747-1088
    Facsimile: (985) 747-1086

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  2. Judith says:

    But, but, but, Bob. If Jindal did all the things you suggest for these children, he would be violating the holy grail of Republican politics–supply-side economics, otherwise known as voo-doo economics.

    Look at countries where religion and state are fused. Is that really what people want for our country? Hysterical folks, at least, seem to.

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  3. Rose says:

    Talking out of both sides of his mouth, AGAIN.

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  4. Bob in BR says:

    Excellent article Mr.Mann. Do you suppose that John White would be willing to post a list of those voucher schools who faired so poorly on the LEAP tests and explain to us uninformed how this is an improvement over the schools they replaced. Wasn’t this law written so they would only hold 25% of voucher schools to the same level of accountability as public schools the first year? Was this level of low LEAP performance culled from the overall number? Shouldn’t this be expected since the voucher schools aren’t required to hire only certified teachers? Replacing education with religion is a disgrace. The abysmal performance of RSD schools is equally disgraceful. The best thing Jindal and White could do is stand aside and let both of these programs stop and hire REAL education experts to fix the REAL, not religious, education problems that plague our state.

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  5. geauxteacher says:

    “In fact, you may be surprised to learn that in rebuffing these parents, White and his Department of Education argued in federal court that allowing the parents to remove their children from the RSD schools, “would likely result in a further segregative effect,” would “promote segregation,” and would “further dilute the already small white student population.”

    Bingo – tripping all over themselves as usual. This would seem to be the defining statement that causes them to lose in the Fred’s desegregation case. Bet Mr. Faircloth is cringing.

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  6. G. V. Foreman says:

    This is the same political “two step” historically practiced and perfected by Jindal. Example, $900,000 dollars of fines handed out by the ethics board staffed with Jindal appointees, handed down but not collected.(A: June 19, 2013, LA Voice, Campaign finance ethics fines mount up; collections? not so much since Gov. Jindal’s ethics ‘reform’ hyperbole of 2008) Jindal fought for, endorsed and passed “ethics” changes for Louisiana in his first year in office. Net result, today, over 300 candidates and 25 PACs owe the state over $900,000. The fines have been leveled, the cases adjudicated, but the money goes uncollected. I’m not a fortune teller, however, my crystal ball tells me the same “Charlie Tuna” approach will be employed to the tax amnesty program going into effect this month. The net result will be businesses, corporations and supporters of Jindal will have untold and unaccounted tax debt “exorcised”(yes, that is a forced referenced) from the tax rolls while “John and/or Jane Doe” taxpayer will not benefit from the program what so ever. Jindal will seize upon this program to reward the “deserving”, ie, those that have and will be of financial benefit to his political aspirations, but punish the “untouchables”, those that have not or will not provide financial support for his political goals. Jindal’s track record demonstrates nothing less. Example, CFIT, Corporate Franchise and Income Tax, collections for 2012 were $679 million dollars below/lower/less than the 2008 level, the first year of Jindal’s administration.(B: LA DEPT. OF REVENUE, TAX COLLECTIONS REPORT 2011-12) The decrease in this one revenue source is directly attributable to Jindal’s largess with regard to “incentives” granted businesses and corporations. No doubt, Jindal will utilized the Tax Amnesty program to further reward businesses and corporations with tax give a ways and forgiveness from any outstanding tax liability due the state. Adding “insult to injury”, the entire system, accountability, reporting will undoubtedly be hidden from public review by Jindal’s enforcement of the “deliberative process”. Of course, in true “Charlie Tuna” fashion, Jindal will paint a pretty picture, brag about “his” accomplishment, distracting the public’s attention from the actual impact of the program. Yes, Louisiana’s “Executive Pimp” will continue painting a “don’t worry/be happy/nothing to worry about/I’m N control” picture for the state and the nation.

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  7. Stephen Winham says:

    This is absolutely one of your best, Bob!! Governor Jindal’s hypocrisy is only exceeded by his arrogant disregard of reality. It is unfortunate the national media is content to publish and broadcast his pap without even looking at his actual record. Of the many tragedies visited upon the state of Louisiana in recent times, this clear attempt to put the final nail in the coffin of public education is among, if not the, most egregious.

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  9. Patricia says:

    If
    If Gov. Jindal was indeed so concerned about the poor minority children, he would stop referring to them as “poor minoirity children” Even when childen from disadvantageed environments get a good education and earn the degrees, those who are touting that they are concerned, dont seem to feel the need ot even hire them in key jobs. Consider the appoiuntments or the jobs that jindal and his cronies have available and count the number of minorities they consider for those positions. Even in the state house one can count on one hand the number of minoriities in leadership positions. Also, Jindal doesn’t understand yet that teaching Africian Americian children about their heritage is the majr key to them becoming successful in and out of school So why isn’t that part of the curriculum for those he calls poor minority children. Non minority chikdren see and live their history EVERY day evrn in the history books what do you teach our chikdren from whence they come!

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