Tag: Bobby Jindal

Jindal Strikes Again

You know, I’m really starting to like Bobby Jindal:

Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to eliminate Louisiana’s income and corporate taxes and pay for those cuts with increased sales taxes, the governor’s office confirmed Thursday. The governor’s office has not yet provided the details of the plan.

“The bottom line is that for too long, Louisiana’s workers and small businesses have suffered from having a state tax structure that is too complex and that holds back economic prosperity,” Jindal said in a statement released by his office. “It’s time to change that so people can keep more of their own money and foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create good-paying jobs.”

I spent five years in Texas, which does not have an income tax on either people or corporations (that’s as opposed to Pennsylvania, where I have both a state and local income tax). It was fantastic. It not only made Texas one of the most friendly places for business to move, including a Toyota plant that opened nearby; it meant that you only paid the taxes you wanted. If you saved your money, you didn’t pay taxes. If you spent it, you paid. And Texas was fairly generous with tax holidays to help families with school kids. A sales tax does have a tendency to be regressive since the poor spend a larger fraction of their income than the rich. But that’s usually balanced out by other taxes (property, franchise, etc).

This would be great for Louisiana. It would encourage businesses to move there, it would remove the deadweight loss of the tax system and it would probably work even better than it does in Texas because of the tourism in New Orleans.

Let’s hope that the legislature acts on this. It could be yet another lifeline to a state that badly needs them.

A Setback for Louisiana

As you may recall, Bobby Jindal has started a large voucher program for Louisiana schools. I’ve expressed support for this, even though some schools eligible for vouchers are teaching creationism. My point is that if it’s a choice between schools that don’t teach evolution and schools that don’t teach anything, that’s not really a choice. And it’s absurd to take some of the more nutty religious schools and claim this represents the entire system.

Yesterday, a Republican judge ruled the program unconstitutional. But it appears to be a much narrower ruling than the Left was hoping for (and thinks it is):

Kelley said the method the Jindal administration, state education leaders and lawmakers used to pay for the voucher program violates state constitutional provisions governing the annual education funding formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program or MFP.

“The MFP was set up for students attending public elementary and secondary schools and was never meant to be diverted to private educational providers,” Kelley wrote in a 39-page ruling.

Kelley, a Republican, didn’t rule on whether it’s appropriate to spend state tax dollars on private school tuition, leaving open the possibility for lawmakers to pay for the program in a different way. His decision was narrowly focused on the financing mechanism chosen by the GOP governor and approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and lawmakers.

Note what he did not do: he did not rule that vouchers can not be done because they go to religious schools, an issue the Supreme Court already ruled on in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. So this has nothing to do with fundamentalism, evolution or religion. It is a matter of fiscal law.

I’m not a lawyer, least of all one in Louisiana, so I don’t know if Kelley is right on this. I suspect, given the narrowness of the ruling, he is right and the Louisiana legislature is going to have to find another way to do this (and provoke an entirely new spate of cartel-defending lawsuits).

What is striking, however, is the glee with which this ruling has been received on a number of Left wing blogs. The writers don’t really seem to care what this means for the rotten Louisiana school system (which actually spends more per student than neighboring states). All they seem to care about is that this is a defeat for Bobby Jindal and the evil religious nutbags.

I do think the critics make one valid point: vouchers are not a “magic bullet” that can cure our schools. In the end, the most important factor is having parents who are involved and committed to their child’s education. But I do think a voucher system gives those parents who are involved more power and leverage over the system. Not power over the teachers, mind you, who need some independence; but power over the over-arching administrative nightmare makes public schools difficult for students, parents and teachers.


Earlier this week, the Left Wing Echosphere was atwitter at the news that a Louisiana school eligible for vouchers had a fundamentalist religious science agenda that teaches, among other things, that the Loch Ness Monster is real and its existence refutes evolution. “Oh, Woe!” they cried, “our tax dollars are going to teach students this rubbish!”

Now never mind that, with hundreds of schools eligible for vouchers, you’re almost certain going to find some that are run by whack jobs. I’m sure there’s a school out there that will teach that Marxism works. The more important point, which I hinted at on Twitter, is expanded on by Neal McCluskey.

First, no matter how loudly government-failure deniers might protest — the government is omnipotent, dammit! – government schooling does not overcome religious belief. The latest Gallup poll assessing views on human origins came out a few weeks ago, and found as it has since 1982: The vast majority of Americans believe that God created human beings, and a plurality believes that God created us in our ”present form.” Only 15 percent hold that human beings evolved without any divine involvement. And this is with roughly 85 percent of students attending public schools.

Next, take a look at overall science achievement. According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress results, only 32 percent of U.S. eighth graders are “proficient” in science. And private versus public schools? 43 percent of private school students are proficient, versus 31 percent for public schools. A significant part of the difference is likely that private schools tend to serve better prepared kids, but the data certainly doesn’t suggest that public schooling beats private when it comes to science instruction.

Finally, there’s the reason government schools are so inept at teaching science: All people, no matter what their beliefs, are forced to support public schools — a perfect recipe for wrenching conflict. To avoid war without end, some 60 percent of high school biology teachers gloss over the mega flash-point that is evolution. The result is that no one, no matter what their beliefs, gets coherent biology instruction.

When discussing vouchers, liberals like to pretend there is some system of idealized perfect schools that we are draining money away from. This is simply not the case, especially in the low-achievement state of Louisiana. Bobby Jindal has seen the state of Louisiana schools and decided that tweaking it at the edges is simply not an option. A game changer is needed.

An unfortunate side effect is that few schools won’t teach science. Well, guess what, friends? The public schools aren’t teaching science either. Many, if not most, of the students in the public schools are as ignorant about evolution, cosmology and astrophysics as if they’d been educated in a fundamentalist rain barrel. You can site bad examples from the private sector all day; I will site the overall massive improvement in all phases of education, including science, that the private system has over the public system.

When it comes to policy, we can’t get bogged down in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to look at the big picture. And the big picture is that Louisiana’s public schools are not cutting it in any dimension: science, reading, math, you name it. Maybe the great voucher experiment won’t produce the stunning results its supporters think it does. But we’ve got to try something other than pouring more money into the same rathole. And there are very good reasons to believe that this particular something is a good thing.

There’s one other point and it’s the one McCluskey makes last: the current public furor over teaching evolution in our schools. The libertarians have been talking about this for some time, saying we could diffuse the evolution debate by privatizing schools. I didn’t agree at first but am now coming around to that point. Half of Americans do not believe in evolution. I’m beginning to think that at least part of that is because of the deliberate politicization of the science. There is tremendous political benefit in making science a point of contention, and not just for the Religious Right. Whether portraying ones self as a stalwart against evil secular atheists or a stalwart against dogmatic religious fundamentalists, the evolution controversy empower politicians. It is always the case: when the politicians manage to divide us against each other, both sides win. If you think that the Democrats would rather the evolution issue go way, you simply don’t understand how the political mind works.

Perhaps, by moving science out of the public sphere, we can take some of the ardor out the debate. We can stop the acceptance of evolution from being absurdly equated with being a Democrat. And, in the long run, I think that will better for the science as well as the schools.

A Tale of Two Cities’ Schools

You haven’t heard much about Bobby Jindal lately, have you? You probably should have:

Post-Katrina New Orleans is already the nation’s leading charter-school zone, with 80% of city students enrolled, academic performance improving dramatically, and plans to go all-charter by 2013. To spread the model statewide, the Governor would create new regional boards for authorizing charters and offer fast-track authorization to high-performing operators such as KIPP. He’d also give charters the same access to public facilities as traditional public schools.

As for tenure, Mr. Jindal would grant it only to teachers who are rated “highly effective” five years in a row, meaning the top 10% of performers. And tenure wouldn’t equal lifetime protection: A tenured teacher who rates in the bottom 10% (“ineffective”) in any year would return to probationary status. Ineffective teachers would receive no pay raise. Louisiana would also ban the “last in, first out” practice under which younger teachers are dismissed first, regardless of performance.

He’s also proposing a massive expansion of the pilot voucher program. One of the untold stories of Hurricane Katrina is that the New Orleans school system has been completely rebuilt in the aftermath, with massive improvement in student performance. Of course, this doesn’t fit the narrative that we need to spend more and shrink class size (an idea questioned by research). So media seems to have a massive lacuna where NO schools are concerned. They just can’t grok the idea of fixing schools without tons of money and loyalty to unions.

Now let’s contrast, shall we? Let’s look at the other end of the scale with one of the most broken bureaucratic systems in the country. Meet Alan Rosenfeld, getting paid $100k a year to do nothing:

Accused in 2001 of making lewd comments and ogling eighth-grade girls’ butts at IS 347 in Queens, Rosenfeld was slapped with a week off without pay after the DOE failed to produce enough witnesses at a hearing.

But instead of returning Rosenfeld to the classroom, the DOE kept him in one of its notorious “rubber rooms,” where teachers in misconduct cases sat idle or napped. As The Post reported, Rosenfeld kept busy managing his many investment properties and working on his law practice. He’s a licensed attorney and real-estate broker.

Since the DOE closed the teacher holding pens in June 2010, those facing disciplinary charges were scattered to offices and given tasks such as answering phones, filing and photocopying.

Rosenfeld could have retired four years ago at 62, but his pension grows by $1,700 for each year he stays — even without teaching. If he quit today, his annual pension would total an estimated $85,400.

Another rubber room veteran retired at 76 after being accused of molesting a kid … 14 years after being accused.

One of our parties supports this bloated out of control system. One thinks the only real problem is a lack of federal control. One had its leader recently propose the insane idea that even the worst kids should be kept in school until they are 18, no matter what. And one of our parties is supposed to be the Party of Education while the other doesn’t care and is even described as “anti-teacher.”

Guess which is which?

Jindal Reelected

Missed this. Bobby Jindal was re-elected governor of Louisiana yesterday, dominating the primary so thoroughly — in a Democrat-dominated state — that they are skipping the general election. The reason?

Within months of taking office, he won approval for laws prohibiting public officials from holding state contracts and requiring them to disclose information about their personal finances.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune endorsed Jindal for re- election this month for those efforts as well as for his management of hurricanes, including Ida in 2009 and Lee in 2011, and the 2010 BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jindal has cut taxes and supported outsourcing government services to private companies. Louisiana’s jobless rate of 7.2 percent ranks below the national average of 9.1 percent.

Competent governing. Good economy. It’s a recipe. Of course, to the Keynesians, the real reason Louisiana is doing well is because Hurricane Katrina broke so many windows, stimulating the economy.