Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was in Washington on Monday to promote his new education initiatives and to lash out at the Common Core national education standards that have been warmly embraced by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, one of Jindal’s potential rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential campaign.
Instead he ended up spending a lot of time fending off embarrassing questions about his state’s financial mess.
“It makes no sense to me that folks in D.C know better than parents, teachers and local leaders,” Jindal said of Common Core during a breakfast session sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I think the more people are exposed to Common Core and the more people are demanding it be taken out of the classrooms, the more the federal government will stop trying to force Common Core down the throats of local teachers, local parents and students.”
Bush, whose early entry in the GOP presidential sweepstakes last month catapulted him to the top tier of likely candidates, is practically alone in his promotion of the Common Core educational standards that are anathema to many rock solid conservatives. The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English that were devised by governors and state educators to set uniform learning goals.
Although Jindal and other critics frequently characterize Common Core as a federal mandate, in fact 43 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the standards and are moving towards their implementation.
Jindal yesterday sought to focus attention on his “K-12 Education Reform: A Roadmap,” which he reportedly believes will set him apart from Bush and other potential rivals should he enter the 2016 presidential field. “America is stuck in a rut on education, and has been for half a century,” Jindal’s document declares. He promotes the ideas of parental choice, limited government and educator freedom as the key to success, while dismissing Common Core as a monopoly government-provided education system.
But it was a rocky visit for Jindal who was repeatedly asked by reporters about Louisiana’s dire financial straits, including a $1.6 billion budget deficit, the deepest per-student cuts in higher education of any state in the country and negative credit ratings by Moody’s.
Once touted as a wunderkind of GOP politics and a future voice of the party, Jindal began his first term as governor in 2008 with a surplus of roughly $1 billion, high oil prices and a huge injection of federal disaster recovery money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, according to the New York Times.
The new governor then backed the largest tax cut in the state’s history. For a while Louisiana’s economy blossomed. But after the Great Recession arrived, oil prices began to dip and the recovery money dried up, Louisiana’s economy sputtered and Jindal has had to make many excuses for what went wrong.
The governor and Louisiana Legislature refuse to raise taxes, and instead are relying on temporary funding sources, such as revenue from property sales and trust funds – to keep the government afloat.
Yesterday, Jindal bobbed and weaved when reporters pressed him to explain why voters should consider him for president when his state’s economy and public university system are in shambles.
The Washington Post reported Jindal responded with a blizzard of statistics regarding teachers’ salaries, private sector job growth, the state’s payroll, graduation rates, official ethics and even low-birth-weight babies – covering just about everything except what the reporters wanted to know.
“The reality is this,” Jindal finally said. “Just like other states during the Great Recession, we faced an issue of what to do with declining revenue. We also cut income taxes – the largest income tax cut. We made the decision. As a result, our budget is...smaller than when I took office, we have 31,000 few state employees than we’ve had in decades.... More importantly, our private sector economy is stronger than it has been in a generation.”
Jindal, 43, typically attracts single-digit voter interest in national polls gauging Republican sentiment in the 2016 presidential contest. And a recent survey by Public Policy Polling found that 53 percent of Louisiana voters disapprove of their governor’s job performance.
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