Bobby Jindal’s alternative education universe

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, architect of a statewide voucher program that sends public money to religious schools which teach that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, ventured to the Brookings Institution in Washington to present his alternative education universe. Jindal, a rising figure in the Republican Party, spoke for more than an hour defending his voucher program — which was declared unconstitutional by a Lousiana state judge who said it improperly diverts public state and local money to private institutions — without actually mentioning the word “vouchers,” instead using euphemisms such as “scholarships.” Quite a feat.

You can watch the video here:

 

Jindal said in his keynote speech that the ruling against his voucher program would be appealed to the state Supreme Court. Incidentally, in a separate case, a federal district court judge in Louisiana recently ruled that the voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish conflicts with a 1965 desegregation case there after school system attorneys argued that the vouchers take public state money away from efforts to comply with that order.

The voucher program — for which some 450,000 students are eligible but about 10,000 have applied — is controversial because most of the slots have been in Christian schools that don’t appear to have the resources to handle them. Many of them use curriculum that promotes Young Earth Creationism, which holds the belief that the universe is no older than 10,000 years old despite definitive scientific evidence that it is billions of years old. You can read more about the program and its stupefying accountability system here.

At Brookings, Jindal set up a straw man and then knocked it down:

It is completely dishonest to pretend today that America provides equal opportunity in education. We do not. And if you say that we do, you are lying.

He didn’t, however, mention who is pretending that America provides equal opportunity in education. Maybe because nobody does.

Brookings itself presented its own alternative education universe with the unveiling of a new Education Choice and Competition Index “interactive web application that scores large school districts based on thirteen categories of policy and practice.” The goal, the Brookings’ website says, is “to create public awareness of the differences among districts in their support of school choice, provide a framework for efforts to improve choice and competition, and recognize leaders among school districts in the design and implementation of choice and competition systems.”

With that as a goal, it’s no surprise the New Orleans Recovery District is at the top. It’s full of charter schools, which is what Brookings likes. However, it’s unfortunate for the students of that district that despite claims of success, it “remains at or near the bottom in Louisiana,” according to a 2012 report, having received a letter grade of “D” from the state last year.

The top ranking also fails to take into account a lawsuit against the state Department of Education that the district’s charter schools don’t serve enough students with special needs, and that some of them set enrollment requirements so that they can force out poor performers. “Choice and competition” — it’s nothing more than a slogan.

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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Valerie Strauss · December 12, 2012

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