Political Animal


July 05, 2012 10:27 AM “Leaving It Up To the Parents” in Louisiana

By Ed Kilgore

Media attention is beginning to cast rather a baleful light on Gov. Bobby Jidal’s efforts in Louisiana to exploit frustration with under-performing public schools in order to shift major public resources to the Republican Party’s conservative evangelical constituency.

As TPM’s Casey Michel reports, newspapers in Monroe and New Orleans have been taking a closer look at some of the schools benefitting from Jindal’s largest-in-the-country voucher program, forcing state officials to scramble for some sort of “additional vetting” of barebones evangelical schools with poor facilities and sectarian curricula. Here’s an excerpt from a piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

In Ruston, the [Monroe] News-Star turned up some head-turning details about New Living Word, a school that has been approved for more voucher students than any other school in the state. The Rev. Jerry Baldwin, the school’s principal, told the newspaper that although he had neither the facilities nor the teachers to accommodate that many students, he was moving ahead “on faith” with the expansion plans.
The 122 students already on the school’s rolls, Baldwin told The News-Star, take their primary instruction by watching a DVD. The newspaper also reported that tuition for voucher students would be set at $8,500, just under the cap, while the rest of the school’s students are on a “tuition assistance program.”
That’s despite the fact that private schools in the program are not allowed to charge the state more than they do the rest of their students.
This was not good news for the state’s new superintendent, John White, already under pressure to bring stricter accountability measures to the program than those Jindal had proposed. White was scheduled to go before a state Senate committee a few days later. After The News-Star item, and just a day before the committee hearing, a member of White’s staff appeared before the Legislature and mentioned plans to do a second round of vetting for schools in the program, a step that hadn’t been mentioned before. The state Department of Education had already published a list of approved private schools and the number of seats each of them had available.

Why is the Boy Genius governor of Louisiana, reportedly on Mitt Romney’s short-list for the vice presidential nomination and currently touring the country demanding that President Obama be driven from office for incompetence, relying on such—to use a technical term—half-assed methods to determine which schools receive large taxpayer subsidies? Well, as internal emails obtained by the Monroe newspaper indicate, the original plan “left it up to the parents” to figure out which schools were worthy of public support. The sudden talk of “vetting” by the state is simply a reaction to all the bad publicity.

Now “leaving it up to the parents” may sound good to some conservatives who view public schools as indoctrination centers for secular-socialism. But what if they choose fundamentalist Bible academies for their kids on religious rather than educational grounds? Should other taxpayers have to support that choice?

The more the details come out about this fiasco in Louisiana, the more it becomes obvious the whole idea is to abolish any previously recognized concept of public education and just shovel dollars to the ground troops of the Christian Right. Last-minute efforts to cover up the scheme by hasty “vetting” of schools to make sure there are desks and text-books and teachers and that they are not gouging the state with suddenly high tuition rates aren’t enough to change that reality.

So in Mitt Romney’s plan to convert all federal education dollars to vouchers, will he similarly “leave it up to the parents” to figure out where the money goes, with similarly casual “vetting” of the beneficiaries? It’s a good question, which among many, many others, needs to be asked about Romney’s agenda for the country.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Another Steve on July 05, 2012 10:45 AM:

    State funding for madrassahs. What could possibly go wrong? As long as they're Christian madrassahs, a good outcome is guaranteed.

  • stevio on July 05, 2012 10:49 AM:

    Praise the Lord and pass the Port..er...DVD.

    Wow. I think t's high time for me to get myself ordained and cut a few DVDs. I want to start a christian school for perspective metalsmiths. Get em' young and drill them in the ways of the Christian methodology of hammering a point home. What fun.

    Sweet baby Jesus...

  • rea on July 05, 2012 10:49 AM:

    As long as they're Christian madrassahs

    Louisiana wouldn't allow the vouchers to be used at an islamic school--the issue has already arisen.

  • stormskies on July 05, 2012 10:55 AM:

    in reality this is what it is all about....

    GOP Opposes Critical Thinking: Party platform paints original ideas as a liberal conspiracy

    By Richard Whittaker, 1:17PM, Wed. Jun. 27

    Who needs a frontal lobe anyway? Texas GOP platform opposes critical thinking.

    It's official: The Republican Party of Texas opposes critical thinking. That's right, drones, and it's part of their official platform.

    One of our eagle-eyed readers emailed us to point out this unbelievable passage in the RPT 2012 platform, as adopted at their recent statewide conference.

    "Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

    What this really means is that the GOP is doubling down on learn-by-rote fact recitation – of the kind spearheaded by the worst of the pro-testing advocates, and locally by IDEA Public Schools, which has committed to the anti-analytical direct learning model (aka "press button A, B or C.")

    But what the hell is all that bunk about "undermining parental authority"? Could it be that the Texas GOP has shown its paternalistic streak a little too overtly? And, let's face facts, that's just policy-wonk speak for "honor thy father and mother." Yup, the Texas GOP is officially enshrining blind obedience into its doctrine of political domination. And be careful that you don't disturb a student's fixed beliefs, like, say, that the Loch Ness Monster is real.

    Sadly, this is just one of 30 pages of head-in-the-sand, pretend-the-Enlightenment-never-happened thinking from the state's dominating party.

  • biggerbox on July 05, 2012 11:09 AM:

    Yet again I'm amazed at how un-conservative the "conservatives" are.

    It never would have occurred to me to just completely throw away the fundamental concepts of public education that have existed in this country since the early 1800s. I thought their voucher plan was just the usual GOP conversion-of-government-funds-to-private-gain, but now I see that it's even worse. They probably think the lack of standards is a feature, not a bug.

  • Sean Scallon on July 05, 2012 11:15 AM:

    "Louisiana wouldn't allow the vouchers to be used at an islamic school--the issue has already arisen."

    Like that's going to stand up in court. Idiots.

    Vouchers are welfare by any other name. They just don't call it that and like any government largess it benefits a particular political constituency.

  • Hedda Peraz on July 05, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Edumacation is E-rellevant!
    (The Lord will Provide)

  • Mimikatz on July 05, 2012 11:30 AM:

    It is also cronyism, another way for the grifters in the GOP to shovel money to each other.

    But it is more widespread than just that. There is a charter school in Oakland, CA run by a pastor who has the kids panhandling on the streets. This whole idea is rife with abuse at the expense of a generation of children who won't be able to compete. In fact this whole experiment with ideology-driven policies is conducted at the expense of our children's future.

    antyste teacher, Captcha?

  • Mimikatz on July 05, 2012 11:32 AM:

    It is also cronyism, another way for the grifters in the GOP to shovel money to each other.

    But it is more widespread than just that. There is a charter school in Oakland, CA run by a pastor who has the kids panhandling on the streets. This whole idea is rife with abuse at the expense of a generation of children who won't be able to compete. In fact this whole experiment with ideology-driven policies is conducted at the expense of our children's future.

  • ceilidth on July 05, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Read Fallows in the Atlantic on infrastructure. Everything he says is equally applicable to our current approach to education.

  • paul on July 05, 2012 12:00 PM:

    Golly, I wish I could just hand over $3 mil of taxpayer money to some connected friends without any review.

    When it gets to the point where you're using theocracy as a cover for massive corruption, you're pretty much past saving.

  • Zinsky on July 05, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Piyush Jindal is a gutless worm who would kill his mother to make a few bucks and get some notoriety. He is a craven, lickspittle lackey of big business. You would think, given his ethnic background, he might want minority students have a chance to get a decent education, instead of some wackadoo Christian brainwashing!

  • James E. Powell on July 05, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Jindal is a gutless worm who would kill his mother to make a few bucks and get some notoriety. He is a craven, lickspittle lackey of big business.

    All that may be true, but he hates the right people. So the good and wise voters of Louisiana will back him all the way.

  • ET on July 05, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Sadly getting the kids indoctrinated is going to make them even more stupid than they feel the public school system is already doing. At least public schools try and educate and sounds like some of the schools that are applying to accept vouchers aren't even trying.

    When I heard this was going down in my home state I knew it was going to go badly. Louisiana doesn't really do "reform" - and when it does it doesn't do it well. The only things the state does well are fail and graft. This is equal parts of both.

  • bluestatedon on July 05, 2012 12:33 PM:

    When I consider that Jindal's actions and policies have widespread support in the states of the Old Confederacy, I find it impossible to completely fight off the wish that they all secede again and form the Christian Constitutional Confederacy Party or the Union of Saved Sainted Republics or the United States of Jesus. It's a juvenile, immature wish on my part, and it would consign millions of sane Southerners to a living hell, but I can't help it.

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 05, 2012 1:03 PM:

    "Bobby" Jindal's parents came to the US 6 months prior to his birth. Doesn't that make him an "anchor baby"? On a national level a first generation Asian Indian who also happens to have a dark complexion. He won't be a welcome candidate for Republican VP.

    In addition, most people still cling to a semblance of the "American Dream" for which a basic foundation is a good education. Religious based school systems can provide excellent educations ( Catholic schools-see Jesuits). Clearly religious based education should not receive public funding. Louisiana charter schools are offering advanced ignorance, social agendas of the crusades, and banjo playing as the most rigorous parts of the curriculum.

  • c u n d gulag on July 05, 2012 1:23 PM:

    Yes, because it’s in the nation’s best interest to make sure that children are only educated to whatever level their parents deem necessary and/or desirable.

    And if parents want their children to be as stupid, ignorant, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and/or homophobic, as they are, or more, well, that’s THEIR RIGHT!

    Why waste time on teaching children “The Three R’s,” when all the parents want them to know are ‘The Three C’s:’ Christ, Conservatism, and Contempt For Others?

    Apparently, we don’t want a population that actually can read and understand The Constitution – just pronounce it correctly as they’re yelling about it at the top of their lungs when someone strays from the first two of ‘The Three C’s.’

    Maybe we had some sort of mental swine flu epidemic, and never knew it.
    ‘Cause a lot more people have become “pig ignorant” recently – my apologies to actual swine, who are nowhere near as stupid and ignorant as the human swine on the right.

    I’m starting to think that eventually devolving into just an “Idiocracy” is far too lofty a goal for too many in this country.
    I think they’re shooting for a ‘Theocratic Moronacy.’

  • martin on July 05, 2012 1:46 PM:

    And here we go...

    Thursday, July 05, 2012
    BACKFIRED: Louisiana GOP Angry That Muslims Can Use School Vouchers

    GOP legislators in Louisiana have realized to their horror that their bill to provide vouchers for private religious schools can actually be used by Muslims.

    Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston, now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for the Jindal voucher bill. “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told the Livingston Parish News. "I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges added. The newspaper reported that she “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’” “Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges told the News. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State writes:

    Some legislators aren’t comfortable funding Muslim schools. What’s to be done? How about not establishing these programs in the first place? Let Muslims fund Muslim schools. Let Catholics fund Catholics ones. Let fundamentalist Protestants pay for the conservative Christian academies and so on.

    The law has already gone into effect and provides for no state oversight regarding curriculum or educational standards. (Tipped by JMG reader Huntington)

    Labels: education, GOP, Louisiana, religion


  • Kathryn on July 05, 2012 1:51 PM:

    @bluestaton.....I'm just as immature as you, just please carve out Northern Virginia from the rest of the Commonwealth and I'm on board. Don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell of Jindal being Romney's vp pick, we can't get that lucky. What is it with these GOP Indian-Americans like Jindal and Nikki Haley, callous suck ups of the highest order.

  • Gingerpye on July 05, 2012 3:05 PM:

    As a sane Georgian, please don't consign me and my compatriots, of whom there are a few, to a Christian Conservative Confederacy. Also, remember that there are more than a few of these knuckle draggers in states outside the old Confederacy so that really wouldn't solve your problem.

    It's this kind of foolishness (vouchers for schools where there are no standards) that makes me question the received wisdom that as the older generation dies out there won't be as many of these right-wing nut cases as there are now. The younger generation is being indoctrinated as we speak.

  • William Burns on July 05, 2012 6:06 PM:

    One wonders if Jindal would have his reputation for intelligence if he were just another Southern white-guy Republican redneck.

  • bluestatedon on July 05, 2012 6:29 PM:

    "more than a few of these knuckle draggers in states outside the old Confederacy..."

    Unfortunately, you're 100% correct. Nobody should fool themselves that the Michigan Militia types up here in the Wolverine State have disappeared, and there's no doubt they're big fans of home-schooling.

  • Crissa on July 05, 2012 7:08 PM:

    I'm more scared at the commenters who seem to think Obama supports Jindal's plans.

    If they didn't vote for Jindal or Obama, who the heck did they vote for?

  • Prattle On, Boyo on July 05, 2012 7:32 PM:

    Oh yeah, now I know exactly where I'm moving and exactly what biz I'm going to get into! DVD'ing for Jaysus - Yay!!