Schoolhouse Rocked: Bobby Jindal Brings Real Education Reform to Louisiana
The laws passed by the Louisiana legislature last week read like a conservative education reformer’s wish list. Teacher tenure, which previously required three years of employment, will now be contingent on educators receiving a “highly effective” rating in five out of six consecutive years. Back-to-back “ineffective” ratings will be a firing offense. Seniority will no longer be a dominant factor in layoff decisions. Decisions about teacher employment and pay will largely devolve to principals and superintendents (they had previously been dominated by local school boards), allowing them to act with the dispatch becoming of an executive.
The reforms go well beyond personnel matters, however. They open up opportunities for charter schools, allowing new providers to enter the market. They offer vouchers that will allow poor and middle-income children in Louisiana’s worst schools to attend private or parochial institutions. They even expand opportunities for online learning.
Had Jindal tried something nearly as audacious in a union-dominated state like California, Illinois or New York, the proposal surely would have been stillborn in committee. But in right-to-work Louisiana, where the unions aren’t subsidized by compulsory membership, the best that organized labor can do is flail in anger after the fact. And flail they have.
In a move reminiscent of the outrage displayed by union forces opposing Governor Scott Walker’s reforms to public employment in Wisconsin, Louisiana teachers marched around the statehouse in Baton Rouge to protest Jindal’s proposal, predicting an imminent educational apocalypse.
Furthering the Wisconsin parallels, some of Jindal’s most fervent critics have launched a recall effort against the governor and his legislative ally, Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, in the wake of the legislation. The effort isn’t expected to go anywhere, however (as Ben Wolfgang noted in the Washington Times earlier this week, there have been at least four prior recall attempts against Jindal, all of which have failed). That owes in part to the political culture of Louisiana. But it also stems from the fact that the state’s voters don’t seem to share the sense of panic besetting its special interests.
Louisianans are sharp enough to realize that the dominant mantra of the education establishment – “spend more money, get better results” – has been disproved virtually everywhere it’s been tried over the past few decades. They’re also not susceptible to the doomsday fears that usually accompany efforts to create charter schools or implement voucher programs because such anxieties are contradicted by experience.
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