Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is defending his private tuition voucher program after a Baton Rouge judge ruled it unconstitutional in November.
"It is completely dishonest to pretend today that America provides equal opportunity in education. We do not, and if you say that we do, you are lying," Jindal said at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday.
Jindal defended the program by calling school choice a "moral imperative." "To oppose school choice is to put the wishes of the adults who control the status quo ahead of the needs of our children. To oppose school choice is to oppose equal opportunity."
The voucher program was signed into law this year in Louisiana to increase the availability of vouchers to fund private school tuition with public dollars. The law allocated millions of dollars to put students from low-income families in private schools, but has been widely criticized for costing families and the public school system more money than anticipated.
Jindal's voucher program damages Louisiana's already-broken public school system. In a letter posted on Education Week, New York University research professor Diane Ravitch called Jindal's policy a "race to the bottom with other Republican governors to see who can move fastest to destroy the underpinnings of public education and to instill fear in the hearts of teachers." Under the program, according to Ravitch, students are encouraged to leave public schools for institutions with tools to intimidate and fire teachers:
Under his plan, the local superintendent could immediately fire any teacher—tenured or not—who was rated “ineffective” by the state evaluation program. If the teacher re-applied to teach, she would have to be rated “highly effective” for five years in a row to regain tenure. Tenure becomes a meaningless term, since due process no longer is required for termination.
Jindal responded to the judge's ruling on his program by saying, "We're taking our fight to the state Supreme Court, and I'm confident that we'll prevail."