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Opinion A4

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Sunday, December 16, 2012 

the livingston parish news

ington in the form of an article published last week in “Politico,” one of a handful of newspapers specializing in covering Congress. In the article, Jindal addressed the looming “fiscal cliff” faced by Congress as it attempts to work out a budget deal with President

mal,” Jindal asserts in the “Politico” article. Jindal’s third proposal is to require a super majority in Congress in order to pass taxes. In Louisiana, as in most states, a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate is required to pass a new tax. “Yes,” Jindal observes, “Washington hates this idea, so it should be pursued with vigor.” Jindal’s fourth suggestion is the imposition of term limits on members of the U.S. House and Senate. “And while we are at it,” suggests the Governor, “how about forbidding Congressmen from lobbying for 5 years after they leave office.” If Bobby Jindal was attempting to define himself by prompting a response from his political enemies, he achieved great success. Both the “New York Times” and “The Washington Post” editorial boards attacked Jindal immediately as “not serious,” the usual liberal attack on any proposal to reduce the size and scope of government. The counterattacks by the liberal establishment against Jindal personally are just what the doctor ordered. By dragging Bobby Jindal’s name through the dirt, these educated idiots have handed him exactly what he wanted on a silver platter . . . identification as the enemy of the Northeast and West Coast, and leader of the rest of the country. Don’t look back, Paul Ryan. Somebody might be gaining on you.

Jindal positions himself as national leader

t didn’t take Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal long to use his new position as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association as a Bully Pulpit from which he can launch salvos at the American liberal establishment, thereby identifying himself as the titular leader of the Republican Party. First, Jindal released a statement directly criticizing Mitt Romney’s reported remarks to a group of his large contributors that he had lost the election to Obama because the President handed out so many “goodies.” Although lacking specifics, the Jindal response to Romney served to separate him from the losing candidate, and at the same time soften the G.O.P. image as hard-line on social issues. It was the supposed hard-line Republican positions on social issues that drove young white voters and college educated white female voters to the Democratic side in the last election. Jindal has wisely identified that as a problem area, and is seeking ways to bring those voters back to the Republican fold. Governor Jindal followed his statements on Mitt Romney with an Op-Ed piece in the “Wall Street Journal” in which he advocated making birth control pills an over-the-counter drug not requiring a doctor’s prescription. Quoting a recent endorsement of the concept by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jindal said the move to over-thecounter would take birth control pill distribution out of the hands of government, and into the hands of individual female consumers. Jindal pointed out the inequity produced by the Obama administration’s health regulations that now allow females to buy morning-after contraceptive pills over the counter, but still require a prescription for birth control pills. The political thrust of the Jindal piece was an attempt to reconcile his pro-life position on abortion with a more liberal stance on the distribution of contraceptive pills. “Democrats have wrongly accused Republicans of being against birth control,” Jindal says in the closing paragraph of his article, a direct appeal to the young white voters and the white female voters so critical to Obama’s reelection. In addition to the statement critical of Romney and the Op-Ed piece in the “Wall Street Journal” the busy Louisiana Governor found time to drop a bomb on the elitist leadership in both New York and Wash-

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‘…the usual liberal attack on any proposal to reduce the size and scope of government.’ Jeff David column.

ways and means

Jeff M. David

Obama. “I had the honor of serving in Congress,” Jindal says in the article. “Here’s what I learned – there will be no significant change without structural reforms . . . Congress and this administration are psychologically incapable of getting our fiscal house in order without laws that give them no other alternative.” Getting specific, Jindal lays out four concrete proposals that would force Congress and the President to get America’s financial house in order. The first, a hot-rod prod in the side of the liberal elitist establishment, calls for a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. “This is an idea that is supported by virtually every American who does not live in the 202 area code,” Jindal asserts in the “Politico” article. Jindal’s second proposal is to “place a cap on discretionary and mandatory federal spending by fixing a limit on it tied to a percentage of GDP. Eighteen percent is a reasonable number in my book,” says Jindal who is undoubtedly aware that the recession coupled with huge deficit spending has raised government to almost 23 percent of GDP under Obama. Jindal would require Congress to attain a “super majority” in order to override the spending limit in times of national emergency such as war. “The president is rapidly making a permanently higher level of government spending the new nor-

editorial

Celebrating a new high school

M

erry Christmas, Watson. You are getting a new high school this week, one that you bit the bullet to pay for through the previous half decade. The $30 million campus on La. 16 north of the main intersection is as beautiful as it was necessary. You saw the need, voted for it and have supported it ever since. There was a time recently when optimists though the school might have been ready to occupy for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. That was not to be, but with patience and perseverance, the senior Class of 2013 is rewarded now as the first to graduate at the beginning of this new era. Two decades ago, Live Oak was half the size it is today, but already it had been identified throughout the region as a community with superior schools. Throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, Watson was the fastest growing area of one of the fastest growing counties in America. Most of the families moving here brought young children that filled the elementary schools to overflowing. New elementary schools were opened. Grade ranges were reconfigured. Some areas on the periphery of the Live Oak School District were reoriented to Denham Springs, all to accommodate the growth and prevent overcrowding. Inevitably, these elementary school children would matriculate to high school. To accommodate that, the old campus filled up with temporary buildings until there was literally no space left to put another. And while the high school was bursting at the seams, the lower schools were filling up fast as well. A new high school would leave the old buildings behind to be refurbished as a middle school-junior high campus that could take pressure off the elementary schools. Yet Watson had little tax base to keep up. It was due to some visionary thinking on the part of former School Board member David Tate and other Watson community leaders that a plan was initiated to find the money to move forward. With a Wal-Mart on the drawing board, they identified a way through a sales tax to accumulate most of the funds needed, yet in the end a millage was required as well. Watson, which is one of the most conservative places in this red state of Louisiana, is not an easy place to sell a new tax. Yet voters bought in, dug deep and waited to see the project finally get off the ground. For two years we have been watching construction of this project, which seemed to go on forever. Now it’s done. All too soon, most of the children passing through those halls will have little if any memory of the way things were. This week is one to reflect on all the effort on the part of all the people who made it possible.

The people of Watson are rewarded for their vision and their sacrifice.

T

Jeff M. David is the Publisher of The Livingston Parish News. Jeff David tweets/follow him @jeffmchugh

Live Oak sends a message

his is a week for celebrating the accomplishments of our public schools, a reminder of the stakes in the ongoing voucher controversy that took a huge twist in court recently. While fixing a Louisiana public school system where half its institutions are failing is the top priority for Gov. Bobby Jindal, school systems like the one here in Livingston Parish manage to get pretty good results. That’s despite a daily battle to make ends meet. If you want to see the face of our parish, check out the new Live Oak High School about to be occupied this week. It is a monument to what public education here is all about. The new campus reflects the remarkable growth of Watson over the last two decades, growth spawned by families moving into new subdivisions from other communities in search of just the right kind of place to raise a family. A major component of that search has been the quality of schools. In any real estate advertisement for a house in Watson you are likely to see the term “Live Oak School District” as a selling point. Live Oak is not the only garden spot around and about. Various public schools in Livingston Parish have been listed in prestigious national rankings for their educational accomplishments, among them French Settlement, Holden and Springfield. These high achievers getting kudos from U.S. News and World Report and other media outlets are not the havens of the aristocrats but rather the community schools of typically middle class families. In the aftermath of recent court rulings declaring Bobby Jindal’s voucher program unconstitutional, the rhetoric is ramping up again about the deficiencies of our public schools in Louisiana, its causes and solutions. We need to remember that here the system works. In fairness to some of the failing schools, the problem may lie not with the institution as much as its clientele. Vouchers have been touted as a panacea that will wipe away all our problems by allowing parents to reallocate state dollars from schools that are not getting the job done to private and charter schools where, it is promised, the child will do better and the performance levels of Louisiana school children will rise overall. In my opinion, this is an exaggeration at best. I have seen no evidence that outsourcing public education or confronting public schools with “competition” will make them perform better. I have seen lots of evidence that any school, public or private, with good demographics performs pretty well and schools with troubled demographics are less successful. To the extent that private schools perform better than public schools it’s because private schools can choose their students and public schools can’t. Some private schools are filled with the sons and daughters of

well-educated professionals who can afford the very best and value education enough to fork over exorbitant tuitions. Their kids may be preparing themselves for Ivy Leaguetype colleges. These are called “prep schools” for a reason and they are pIECE OF the SEC of education: No MIND public school can compete Mike Dowty with them. Meanwhile, across the city, the kids from the worst neighborhoods take up space in the classrooms where neither they nor the teachers want to be. With motivation lacking on both sides, very little learning goes on. The new voucher law proposes to give some parents of students going to such public schools the option of picking an alternative with the help of state dollars. It sounds noble until you stop to think about what’s going to happen to those students who remain stuck in that floundering school, which is bound to get even worse. That’s one reason Judge Tim Kelly lowered the hammer on the voucher plan as written, which diverts state Minimum Foundation Plan funds from public to private schools. The MFP is designed to guarantee public school districts across the state, regardless of their economic circumstances, an equitable distribution of state dollars. As the name suggests, the plan creates a minimum foundation for all students. So far the voucher program has been less of a problem for Livingston Parish schools than the state’s ongoing freeze of MFP funds that has forced local systems like ours to slash their budgets and driven many educators into early retirement out of frustration. What are the chances that the Legislature will restore adequate MFP funding at the same time private schools are dipping their hands into the state treasury? Also objectionable is the lack of accountability. This outsourcing of public education through vouchers does not require the recipients to live up to the same performance standards as the public schools. In fact, their performance may not even be measured. This sets the stage for marginal, unproven institutions to proliferate for the sole purpose of getting their hands on my tax dollars. They will not have to produce any proof that they can or will do any better than their public school “competitors.” Here in Livingston Parish, the “choice” has been made. We don’t need to “fix” our public schools. If you don’t believe that, take a drive up La. 16 Sunday afternoon and look in on the new Live Oak High School. Mike Dowty is managing editor of the Livingston Parish News.

Dec. 16 Piece of Mind  

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