We can't vouch for "school choice"
Readers of this newspaper are well aware that Gov. Bobby Jindal spent much of his first term in office as a frequent flyer in our Pooyie! franchise, more often under the Pas Bon and Couillon headings for cuts to higher education and health care, pushing to privatize some of the state’s most efficient programs, notably the Office of Group Benefits and its half-billion-dollar surplus, and decrying 2009’s federal stimulus while passing out stimulus checks emblazoned with his name.
But The Ind has been steadfast in its support of upending the status quo in public education both locally and statewide — clearly and empirically, public education in Louisiana is not working well and must be revamped — and we’re ready to give qualified praise where it’s due.
There’s much to like among Jindal’s proposals on changing public education in Louisiana — the details of which will be hashed out beginning March 12 when the legislative session convenes.
We’re ready to embrace the governor’s proposal to give school districts more flexibility in how they compensate teachers — no more automatic, across-the-board pay raises — and we’re tentatively behind changes to how teachers are hired, fired and achieve tenure.
But we greet the governor’s push to expand the private school voucher program — the governor is doggedly trying to re-brand it a “scholarship” program — with a reaction somewhere between wary and suspicious.
It’s no coincidence that Jindal’s aggressive marketing campaign is relying heavily on the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national school choice advocacy group that pours millions into splashy advertisements featuring happy black families extolling the virtues of school choice.
But there’s a lot of evidence the BAEO is financially underwritten by some very radical forces, not the least of which is the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation. Milton Friedman laid out the real goal of vouchers in the 1950s, according to a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”
Also joining Team Jindal in the education reform trenches is The Heartland Institute, which issued a press release Jan. 31 announcing Jindal’s endorsement of school choice legislation crafted by the nonprofit. The Heartland Institute’s president was quoted in 1997 as saying, “[W]e see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.”