In an odd twist, a press conference called by House Democrat leaders Monday afternoon to criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s public school proposals suddenly featured top leaders of Jindal’s administration.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, had just begun comments on the governor’s plan to overhaul public schools when Jindal aides suddenly appeared, including the governor’s chief of staff Stephen Waguespack, state Superintendent of Education John White, Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret and Stafford Palmieri, the governor’s policy director.
Asked why Jindal administration officials showed up a Democrat press conference Waguespack said, “Just to listen.”
Edwards and state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, spent about half an hour criticizing Jindal’s plans, including a bill that would spark a major expansion of state aid for certain public school students to attend private schools.
Jindal says the change is needed to give families more school choices, especially since 44 percent of public schools got a “D” or “F” rating last year from the state.
Edwards, who is House Democratic Caucus chairman, said the governor’s plan is unconstitutional, mostly because it would allow state aid to public schools to help finance private school tuition.
He said it would give state officials too much authority over education and represents a “Baton Rouge, Bobby knows best approach.”
White said the criticism by White and other Democrats was based on inaccurate information.
The appearance by key figures in the Jindal administration is unusual because, in most cases, those criticized in a press conference are not present and are often asked to comment later.