Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show Thursday night, to discuss the Justice Department’s effort to shut down Louisiana’s school choice program by suing under desegregation laws.
“The Obama administration is trying to use rules that were designed to protect poor minority kids to actually keep them trapped in failing schools,” said the Governor. “We’ve got 8,000 kids getting these scholarships. 100 percent of these are low-income families. 100 percent of them are coming from C, D, or F public schools. 100 percent of their parents chose this as a way for their kids to get a better education. 90 percent of them are minorities. We talk about equal opportunity in America, but we’re not providing it unless we give every child the chance to get a great education.”
He chastised the Administration for putting teachers’ union interests ahead of students. “This is all politics, it’s all ideology,” Jindal charged. “It’s not about these kids.”
Jindal dismissed Attorney General Eric Holder’s argument that the voucher program would disrupt the racial balance of students in Louisiana schools. “How backwards is that?” he asked. “Every child, no matter their zip code, their race, their parents’ wealth, should have a chance to get a great education.”
He described one example of a desegregation offense cited by the Justice Department, in which six black students received scholarships to escape from a grade-F failing public school… but were marched right back into it, because their departure would have upset the racial formula of the student body. “How is that ‘protecting their civil rights?’ Bill, I’ve met these moms. These are moms working multiple jobs. They want their kids to get a great education. When we started this program, union leaders said, ‘Look, parents don’t have a clue when it comes to making choices for their kids.’ These moms have told me, with tears in their eyes, ‘We make choices for our kids every day. We know their needs better than bureaucrats in Baton Rough or Washington, D.C.'”
Jindal could see no explanation for the actions of Attorney General Holder and President Obama, other than cynical allegiance to the teachers’ unions. “We’ve got 40,000 kids in charter schools in Louisiana,” he said. “They’re not going after that program. They’re going after the scholarship programs. Whether it’s incompetence or ideology, the bottom line is, they’re going to hurt the kids we should be working so hard to serve.”
“Eric Holder wouldn’t send his kids to these schools,” Jindal charged, with indisputable accuracy. “Parents who can afford to move to better neighborhoods with better schools, or send their kids to private schools, if that makes sense for them. All we’re saying is, give every child the chance to get a great education.”
As O’Reilly noted in his conclusion to the interview, the money for this voucher program is not being taken away from public schools; other sources of funding have been arranged. It’s a shot of pure competitive power into a decrepit system, and it’s giving the beneficiaries a chance to flourish in a better educational environment, while the moribund public school system rises from its bureaucratic stupor to do something about the failing schools they came from. But the unions cannot allow that, anywhere, no matter how many children and hopeful parents must be made to suffer.
The last thing union bosses need is Bobby Jindal swaggering around in 2016 and boasting of his voucher program’s astounding success, perhaps with a few young scholars in tow. Other states might start getting funny ideas… and then where would the “educational establishment” be? Government – especially big, centralized, unaccountable government – is the antithesis of competition. It recoils from situations where statist ideology is pitted against competitive power, and found wanting.
Jindal’s full interview with Bill O’Reilly can be seen here.
Update: Seth Mandel at Commentary on the absurdity of Eric Holder using desegregation laws to thwart school choice programs: “The school had a ???racial identity??? as a white school, and the state of Louisiana awarded scholarships to a group of black students to get them out of the white failing school and into a better private school. According to Eric Holder???s Justice Department, the Louisiana voucher program gave private school vouchers to too many black students. What this means in practice is that Holder would not challenge them on segregation grounds if, merely because of their race, the state allotted fewer vouchers to black students in favor of giving the scholarships to white students.”
Adds Mandel: “Imagine what Democrats would make of a policy that disproportionately harmed black students trying to get a decent education if the partisan roles were reversed.”