Jones critical of Jindal education reform plan
CENTERVILLE, La. – Rep. Sam Jones made a blistering attack on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education plan at Thursday’s St. Mary Parish School Board meeting.
“It is over the top what they are trying to do to this system and I do not see the reform,” he said.
Jones, a Democrat from Franklin representing District 50, commended the school board for opposing a voucher plan, which is part of the Jindal plan.
Jindal, a Republican, introduced an education plan that includes expanding the number of charter schools, vouchers and new teacher evaluations.
“Any time a governor proposes a reform package I spend considerable time going through it inch by inch, piece by piece, to find those things in there that I could possibly support and, to be honest with them, those things I couldn’t,” he said.
The education reform is not unique to Louisiana, but has been proposed in other states, he said.
“The goal is to move kids from failing schools to give them options, but it affects 1 percent of the students,” he said.
“If you do 1 percent that is a 100-year plan,” he said. “I don’t think we have 100 years to meet an objective of reform.”
Jones criticized that $1.2 million was taken from the St. Mary Parish school public system to fund four vouchers.
Half the money is from Minimum Foundation Program money and “the other half is a shell game taking local dollars that we as citizens of this parish voted on for this school system and using those to back out MFP dollars,” he said.
Funding the vouchers has cost other parishes more than what it did in St. Mary Parish, he said. Lafayette Parish lost $5 million and Richland Parish lost $2.2 million, he said.
“For the life of me I do not understand how a conservative, as he identifies himself, can create a centralized education system and give all the power that has been given to the superintendent of education and to take it away from you,” he said.
The state’s constitution reads the Legislature shall fund “public elementary and secondary schools,” he said in asserting the Jindal plan violates the separation of church and state.
Jones faulted the voucher system for having the government pay money directly to private schools.
“I’ve never had a problem with assisting parochial schools,” he said. “I have voted for tax cuts for parents who have already made the choice to send their kids to parochial schools. I think that is the way we do it.”
There are not standards comparable to those at public schools for the schools selected to receive vouchers, he said.
“I do not know of any other state, I do not know of any other time in this nation that public bodies have written checks to churches,” he said.
“There are some fundamentalist churches that chose not to get involved in this program,” he said. “Because they see the danger of the government creeping in and handing a check to the church and putting strings on it.”
The reform program has led to “demonizing teachers, demonizing public employees and trying to take their pensions,” he said.