In The News › Gov. Jindal’s education reforms need deliberation by legislators: An editorial

Gov. Jindal’s education reforms need deliberation by legislators: An editorial

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday after testifying about his sprawling education reform package that he is open to amendments that would improve the legislation. He also said that lawmakers and the public will have several weeks to review and comment on the multi-bill package.

“There’s every opportunity for people to offer their ideas, their reviews, their comments,” the governor told the Associated Press. He added that his administration is “open to any amendment that will improve these bills in an honest and sincere and effective way.”

That is good to hear. His administration had given the opposite impression leading into the legislative session. Reform proponents who are advocating amendments to strengthen parts of the governor’s proposals had not felt they had much of a chance at succeeding. And the understanding was that the administration wanted to get the bills quickly through committee this week and bring them up for floor votes next week.

A one-week window is very quick for such complex and far-reaching proposals. Gov. Jindal noted that the public has had weeks to discuss the ideas contained in the legislation. But the details of the bills are crucial, and neither lawmakers nor the public should be rushed through the vetting process.

There is much to like in the governor’s reform package ­— and it has the potential for dramatic positive results. But multiple good-government groups and longtime reform backers are concerned about some weaknesses, particularly in House Bill 976, which provides for the expansion of vouchers.

The Bureau of Governmental Research and Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans argue that there should be greater accountability for schools accepting vouchers. They are right. The legislation as drafted does not ensure the academic quality of private or parochial schools in the program and does not provide for a process to remove vouchers from schools that perform poorly.

“Under the proposed program, a student could use a voucher to transfer from an average-quality public school to a low-quality private school with no track record or qualifications,” BGR said in a report this week. “The student’s academic performance could decline, and the state would impose no penalties on the school. And taxpayers would foot the bill for all of it.”

BGR is recommending the voucher program be limited to students attending or heading into public schools rated D or F. The group also calls for excluding private schools that can’t outperform the public schools from which they draw voucher students.
Those are sensible revisions. They would improve the bill, and they are being offered in a sincere way. So, there should be no problem adding them.

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