Fresh from his re-election victory, Gov. Bobby Jindal promised to use his upcoming second term to focus on improving Louisiana’s public education system.
That seems ironic given Jindal’s recent refusal to seek up to $60 million in federal funds to help advance early childhood education programs in Louisiana.
Jindal’s administration opted not to compete for the federal funds, which are being distributed through the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” program.
Jindal administration officials said the federal funds would have too many strings attached. But most federal money comes with strings attached, and the Jindal administration has taken lots of federal money in the past.
The administration agreed to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money to balance the state budget, and state government routinely receives hundreds of millions more in Medicaid financing and other federal dollars.
Race to the Top offers states the opportunity to advance new ideas in education reform by competing for federal dollars.
The program’s acknowledgment of entrepreneurial energy as an engine of reform seems like something that would excite Jindal.
We hope this isn’t a case of Republican Jindal dismissing a promising source of help for Louisiana’s schoolchildren just because the help is being offered by the Democratic Obama administration.
Louisiana’s youngsters certainly can use the help.
The state consistently ranks near the bottom in educational attainment, and a host of experts have pointed to the importance of early childhood education in breaking the cycle of poor academic achievement.
Post-Katrina changes to the education system in New Orleans have given Louisiana a national profile as a laboratory for reform in public schools.
Given that stature, Louisiana would have been a promising candidate in competing for these federal funds.
If Jindal wants history to remember him as an education governor, this is an odd way to do it.