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Jindal Ready for Education Reform Fight

In his inaugural speech Monday, Governor Bobby Jindal made clear that he would be pushing for education reform to kick off his second term. But while Jindal went on at length about getting Louisiana’s students better opportunities, the speech was short on details for how he plans to do that.

When WRKF's Tegan Wendland asked LSU Professor Robert Hogan for his analysis, he suggested the governor was being purposely vague.

HOGAN: I think his intention was to lay it out in very broad language. He did, however, lay out some parameters. He pointed out that education is going to be the thing that he wants to work on and he wants to do that without major new taxes or major spending efforts. And I also think he's pointing out to potential opposition to his reform effort that that's not going to be an option. He made it very clear that reform is something that's coming and get ready.

WENDLAND: Yeah, I was kind of surprised by one of his statements, which was pretty hard-hitting -- he said, "Anyone who stands in the way of providing real opportunities to all our kids must now stand down." Who was he speaking to?

HOGAN: I think he's talking to the education community. The teacher's organizations in the state, as in most states, are quite strong, and given the type of change that I think he envisions -- most people think it will be something in the form of school choice, perhaps a voucher system, accountability standards, charter schools -- those are things that do not sit well with the education community at large, and so he expects a lot of opposition to come from them. And so he is sort of giving a warning that he's going to be willing to take on these interests.

WENDLAND: We all knew about those proposals and his support for charter schools, school choice and a voucher system before, though, so what kind of new legislation might we be facing?

HOGAN: Well, those are the details that we don't know yet. He talked in very broad terms, he used the word "choice" a few times which suggests that maybe the emphasis is going to be more on giving parents the choice of sending their kids to a different school if it's a failing school, or maybe a broader choice even than that -- maybe allowing people to move across district lines, even if the school isn't failing. So, hopefully he will be laying out -- well, he will have to lay out more specifics in the coming weeks.

WENDLAND: Did you think that there were any hints at an interest in higher office in this speech?

HOGAN: No, I don't. But I do think that Bobby Jindal is someone who is a young and ambitious politician and he knows that in order to get recognition at the national level, he's going to have to pursue effectively a reform effort that gets national attention.

WENDLAND: So, do you think his focus is in the right place in that regard, focusing on education, or should he be considering the economy or the environment or some other platform?

HOGAN: Well, I mean, in some ways the education system is the cornerstone of all of that, or the foundation of all of that. It's very difficult to lure businesses here for a variety of reasons, but one of the big things is of course having an educated workforce. And it's something that politicians take on -- reforming education -- something that a lot of politicians, a lot of governor's have taken on across the states. And it's something that doesn't have immediate benefits, it's something that we don't see the benefits for 20 or 30 years down the road. So, to the extent that he can do something about this issue and improve the educational environment in the state, that's something that will bring businesses in the future. That will bring people back home. A lot of people leave Louisiana because of lack of economic or job opportunities and this is a great way to lure them back.