By Andy Kirchoff
Latest news from the Bayou State: Republican Governor Bobby Jindal is using his political clout to push for an education reform package that includes more public funding for the state’s school voucher program, a “fast-tracking” of the approval process for charter schools, and reform of the state’s teacher-tenure system, the Holy Grail of liberal teacher’s unions.
Predictably, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (aka the education cartel of Louisiana) is opposing the measure. More surprising, however, is the fact that some local, fragmented tea party opposition to the legislation has emerged, even as FreedomWorks and other national conservative groups have announced their support of Jindal’s reforms. Democratic Astroturf perhaps? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time….
In any case, Jindal deserves serious commendation for his willingness to tackle education reform. He’s certainly not the first Governor to tackle this issue (Republican Governors Jeb Bush, Jon Huntsman, and Mitch Daniels have all beaten Bobby to the punch on this one), but Louisiana is a state where political corruption runs rampant – especially in the public education system.
Irrespective of the Bayou state’s infamous culture of corruption, however, the conservative model of education reform is quite simply good policy. Contrary to what the Teacher’s Unions will tell you, “Public-to-Private” school vouchers for private schools pose no threat to the education of children; indeed, it’s all too easy to find studies that demonstrate that disadvantaged youth are more likely to succeed if given access to alternatives to local public schools.
It’s also unquestionably true that there is high demand for education reform among racial minority families in particular. The state of America’s public education system has become so intolerable for racial minority students that some families are even turning to homeschooling – something once unthinkable in post-Brown v. Board of Education America. Unsurprisingly, the education lobby hasn’t taken kindly to this trend; in Illinois and Michigan, legislators in the pockets of big teacher’s unions attempted onerous restrictions on families in order to limit the practice of homeschooling.
Republicans would be wise to not only embrace education reform as good policy; education reform is a veritable gateway to attract minority voters to the GOP fold, and is thus good politics, too. I submit the following anecdote as proof: back in 2010, I had the privilege of working for a black Republican State Senate Candidate named Cedra Crenshaw. She proudly ran on an education reform political platform, fearlessly castigating her opponent for being a pawn of the education lobby. Her campaign manager would frequently tell voters that “If the kids had a Union, they’d be supporting Cedra.” The Chicago Democratic machine spent nearly $1 million (!!!) in her overwhelmingly Democratic District in order to defeat her. Even so, Cedra’s message of reform found an audience, as evidenced by her receiving over 40% of the popular vote – an unprecedented total for a Republican running in Joliet, IL.
Education reform should be central to future Republican outreach. I’ve written before that racial minorities, more than any other demographic group, pay the price for the obstinate political stonewalling of the education lobby, and Republicans should not be reticent to highlight this fact. I mean, really now, restrictions on homeschooling? Resisting mild tenure reforms that even liberals like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and President Obama ostensibly support? Ensuring that a child’s educational options are determined by zip code rather than what parents think is best? That’s the Union Way, folks, and that’s what Governor Jindal is trying to change down in Bayou country. Support the Governor and his efforts to help the next generation be the best that it can be!