An editorial writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote a scathing critique of Governor Bobby Jindal’s reform legislation: the haste with which it was adopted, the lack of forethought, the approval of schools to receive voucher students even though they had no facilities, the diversion of public money to private schools, the lack of accountability for private schools getting public money, and Jindal’s refusal to allow tax breaks for those who make donations to public schools (he supports tax breaks only for contributions to private schools). The editorial expressed appreciation for the fact that legislators were starting to ask tough questions, but concluded it would have been better had they asked tough questions before they voted approval for the legislation, rather than afterwards.
Not brooking any dissent, the Governor’s communication director responded with an email. His defense to every question raised: Look how terrible the academic performance of students in public schools is. Look how many received a D or an F last year (44 percent). Look how terrible the American education system is. Look how many nations got higher test scores than the U.S. in the latest international test. Companies that move to Louisiana can’t find skilled workers. Children get only one chance. We can’t wait.
Translated, his response means: We don’t know how to fix the public schools so we will hand out public money to anyone who wants it. Academic performance is so low that we will try anything, without any evidence, even if it means destroying the public school system and giving funds to tiny evangelical schools that have no resources or track record. We will give public money to anyone who wants to open a charter school, even though the charters we now have are no better than the public schools. Our public schools are so bad that we have no obligation to improve them. We will try anything even if the outcome for children is likely to be even worse than what we are doing now. Unspoken but implied: When you are the governor and you control the Legislature and the state board of education, you can do any thing you want, even something as wacky as sending children to religious schools that have no facilities and no evidence of a better academic program than the local public school.