“I’ve got a message for Eric Holder. I’ve got a message for President Obama. We will fight you every step of the way, we will go to the United States Supreme Court if that is what it takes to save these children.” – Bobby Jindal – March 14, 2014 – Nashua, NH.
Over the past five years, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has worked tirelessly to save Lousiana’s children from failing schools. His successes and challenges are what he talked about last night in his keynote address at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, NH.
Photo: Courtesy of Kim Morin – @conservativeind
Jindal talked about how giving kids a chance is fundamental to the American Dream. Jindal said, “If we really believe in the American Dream, we have to be able to look every child in the eye and say, yes you too have the same opportunity to get a great education, and that simply is not true today. Millions of American Children are trapped in failing schools in this great country.”
Jindal further said that it is not because we don’t spend enough money on education. He recounted that we have doubled the amount we have spent on education since the 1970’s and still have flat test scores. America spends the second most, as a percentage of our economy, of any developed country and what have we gotten for it?
“If you are in your 50’s we were number one in the world when you were getting your education. If you’re in your 20’s we were number 16. Can you imagine going to the Olympics and saying, “we’re number 16″? That is not exactly a rallying cry for America”, continued Jindal.
Jindal reminded the crowd that making the case for school choice is how we can win over the hearts and minds of the American people, “If we want to show every American family that conservative policies can help them join the middle class, and do better than their parents, we start with education.”
Jindal stressed that ensuring that children have the best teachers is very important. He talked about a Columbia University Study that shows the importance of a good education, and the study showed, “that if your third grade daughter has a great teacher, she is more likely to go to college and less likely to become a teenage mother.”
To ensure we have great teachers in every classroom the current tenure based system for educators must change. Jindal said, “In too many states our policies don’t tie teacher excellence to student performance. In Lousiana we changed all of our hiring, firing, and compensation policies. So that, instead of rewarding teachers for how long they’ve been breathing, we reward them for how well our students are learning in the classroom.”
Jindal then started talking about his successes in Louisiana. Talking about the change in paradigm needed for school choice, Jindal said, “the other thing we’ve done is get the dollars to follow the students instead of the students following the dollars.”
Like any change, the stationary inertia of the current educational establishment is tough to overcome. Jindal recalled the establishement’s response, “Along the way, a Union leader in Louisiana said this, “Parents don’t have a clue when it comes to making educational choices for their children.” I find that pretty offensive.”
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Jindal continued, “From President Obama on down, the left simply doesn’t trust the American People to make our own decisions. They don’t trust us to spend our money. They don’t trust us on our healthcare. They don’t trust us to make choices for our children. They don’t trust us to live our lives.”
Jindal recounted the crowning achievement of his policies, “90 % of our kids in New Orleans are now in charter schools. In five years we have doubled the percentage of kids in reading and math on grade level.”
After instituting charters, Jindal moved on to what has been his most controversial policies. Jindal pushed for and has started an educational voucher program, which he refers to as scholarships.
Jindal talked about the program’s success, “We have started a scholarship program. Here is a program that is growing by double digits every year, at a cost of about 60% of what we’d spend to send these kids to traditional public schools. This is a program where 93% of the parents are satisfied with the program.”
Jindal has faced recall over the scholarship program, as have Republican Leaders in both houses of the Louisiana legislature. He recalled telling children that the recall rallys were, “just parades for daddy.”
Jindal, and the forces for change ultimately prevailed in Louisiana, as Jindal recalled, “We beat back those challenges. They took us all the way to the state Supreme Court, and our program is still standing, more popular than ever before, and still growing by double digits.”
That success at the state level was soon challenged by the Obama administration. Jindal told the crowd the story, “50 years to the day after Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech, the President’s department of justice led by Eric Holder, went to federal court to try and stop Louisiana from giving scholarships to allow these disadvantaged kids to escape their failing schools. ”
Jindal talked about the morality of Obama, and Holder’s actions, “I think this is immoral and hypocritical. The reason I say that is they are using the same laws, the same protections that are designed to help low income kids to trap them in failing schools. Now I promise you, there is no way that Eric Holder and Barack Obama would send their kids to the failing schools these kids are trying to escape.”
Jindal spoke about the lack of time available to save children’s lives, and why talk of incremental reforms are not fair. Saying, “our children only have one chance to grow up. It’s not fair to make them wait for a great education.”
Jindal laid down a challenge to the Obama Administration, “Now we have challenged the United States Department of Justice, and said we’ll take them all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”
Jindal explained the Obama administration’s response, “They started with a permanent injuction, then they backed off. At one point they said, we want 45 days before you tell the stuents. We want to, quote, make sure the students are the right ones. In our country we should be about the quality of the child’s education, not the color of their skin.”
The facts don’t support Holder and Obama’s defense of the establishment. Jindal explained the demographics of the program, “Over 90% of the kids in this program are minorities or African American. Over 100% of these families chose to participate in this program. 100% off these kids were trapped in C, D, or F schools, if not given a choice.”
Many times, the best advocates for school choice are the parents. Jindal wants America to talk to the moms who have benefited from this program, “I want you to hear from the mom’s. The most persuasive advocate for this program is not the Governor, it’s not the legislators, It’s not the policy advocates, it’s the moms. It’s the moms that stand in line to sign up for the program. It’s the moms.”
Jindal summed up the moms’ motivation, “These mom’s want their kids to learn the American Dream. These moms are working hard and playing by the rules, they simply want their kids to do better than them.”
Standing up for the moms, Jindal laid down a message for the administration, “I’ve got a message for Eric Holder. I’ve got a message for President Obama. We will fight you every step of the way, we will go to the United States Supreme Court if that is what it takes to save these children. How in the world did we get in a situation where the government, the federal government, is trying to deny kids a chance at a good education?”