Potential GOP 2016 presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) unveiled an education policy plan Monday that confronted the dismal state of public education in the United States and put forth a pathway that emphasizes the role of parents–and not government–as the greatest influence in students’ lives.
Jindal’s plan, titled “K-12 Education Reform: A Roadmap,” which is posted at the website of nonprofit America Next, is poised to set him apart from other presidential hopefuls, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who has been a champion for the Common Core standards. In his “Roadmap,” Jindal calls for a free market model of American education that limits the role of the government and places parents at the top of the list of decision-makers for the best environment and course of study for students.
Citing that “Americans now spend three times as much for the same mediocre level of education American children received in the 1970s,” Jindal bluntly charges that continuing with the current failed public education system means that American government, as created by the framers, cannot survive:
Good government requires civic knowledge. Yet, today, a third of Americans cannot name a single one of the three branches of government. Another third cannot name all three branches. … These are questions a grade-schooler might find on an easy quiz. Given that a republic must have an educated citizenry to survive, our failure to cultivate civic literacy is akin to a human neglecting to feed himself.
Jindal identifies parents, teachers, and curriculum as “the three most significant influences on a child’s academic achievement.” At the same time, however, he asserts that a web of bureaucracy, teachers’ unions that block educators from making individual choices, massive government regulation, and lack of choice for parents are preventing American students of all economic levels from obtaining the education they need for jobs and careers.
Jindal’s prescription for educational rehabilitation in the United States is first, to “allow the dollars to follow the child,” a system that would put the “choice” in the hands of parents. He recommends the expansion of tax-credit scholarship programs and education savings accounts (ESAs), but warns against increased government regulation that can also come with some “school choice” programs:
School choice cannot be a mechanism to move the education monopoly into the private sector. It must be a mechanism to move free enterprise into the government monopoly. States must regulate scholarship schools as lightly as possible, or else risk co-opting their uniqueness. The regulations should also vary by funding mechanism—tax-credit scholarships, for example, function on private dollars, so should be subject only to existing tax and regulatory oversight of scholarship nonprofits.
Second, Jindal observes that public education– like the rest of government–has grown too large to the extent that it is “unresponsive to parent and family needs and desires.” In his Roadmap, the governor demonstrates at length how the Common Core standards are an example of out-of-control government, yet points out the “deeper problem of monopoly education.” He also discusses the need to “restore and enhance” the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect children’s private data.
Finally, Jindal wants to see teachers freed from the burdens placed upon them by government mandates. Citing research that shows that “certified teachers are no better than uncertified teachers,” Jindal recommends low barriers to entry into the teaching profession–such as criminal background checks and a college degree–but “higher barriers to permanent retention.”
“Teacher tenure makes the entire process of teacher evaluation largely futile, even when evaluations include student data, as has become more common in recent years,” Jindal writes, pointing out that “in 80 percent of states, teachers can earn permanent job status after only three years.”
“States should end tenure, and let schools establish employee contracts with teachers tied to performance metrics and school needs,” Jindal said. “Teachers should receive a fair hearing in the case of pending termination, but not a permanent guarantee of employment.”