Derek Hunter
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Would any concerned parent willingly send their children to an average public school in this country if there was an option available?

The word “concerned” in the question should be a tipoff that the answer is no. Still, states, localities and the federal government continue to dump billions of our hard-earned tax dollars into a system that is rotten to its core.

Don’t think things are that bad? A student in Washington state named Austin took a video camera into his school’s cafeteria and asked students basic questions about U.S. history. The answers, although funny, are pathetic.

Progressives say it’s because teachers are forced to “teach to the test” – meaning standardized tests designed to measure knowledge of important topics such as English, science and math. Lee White, executive director of the National History Coalition, told the Huffington Post, "They've narrowed the curriculum to teach to the test. History has been de-emphasized. You can't expect kids to have great scores in history when they're not being taught history." That would hold some water, of course, if those students who failed at history were excelling at other topics. But they’re not.

President Obama has attempted to address the problem of our failing education system in each of his three State of the Union addresses, but his solution, as always, is only to spend more money. But if money was the problem, we’d be leading the world in education. We are not.

Progressives will tell you we’re spending a lower percentage of our GDP on education than other countries, which is true. But when it comes to per-pupil spending – the measure that matters most – we’re near the top.

Our education spending has skyrocketed. Our test scores have not.

A new study by Harvard researchers (yes, Harvard) found class size, the oft-cited straw man used by progressives to urge the hiring of more union teachers, essentially doesn’t matter. But real facts, real evidence rarely plays a role when it comes to progressives pushing their agenda, so this won’t matter either.

If meaningful reform is to come, and that’s a big “if,” it’s going to come from the state level.

One person actually trying to bring change to public education is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The Wall Street Journal says Gov. Jindal “wants to create America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system and toughest teacher accountability regime – all in one legislative session.”

School choice and a voucher program that allows students and parents to choose any school that best suits their needs have been proven winners in the fight to improve education quality. They’ve also been the top target of teachers’ unions because families often choose private schools where the teaching staff is not unionized.

Gov. Jindal believes that every child deserves an equal opportunity in education, but that the current system doesn't allow for it. Emboldened by what has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Jindal is now pushing for statewide education reform.

Educational choice is one of the few good things to come out of the storm, which laid waste to dozens of the nation’s worst public schools. Instead of rebuilding the old, failing system, the state transformed most of the schools in Orleans Parish into autonomous charter schools.

Student achievement has improved dramatically, and in a poll last summer by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, two-thirds of parents in the city said they prefer the new system over the old one, and 98 percent said choice should be part of any future reforms in the state. The biggest challenge has been how to squeeze more students into the most successful of the charters.

Gov. Jindal’s plan would allow students in failing schools statewide to take the roughly $8,500 the state spends on their education to any accredited school they wish. The threatened loss of money would apply market forces to bad schools that routinely fail without consequence. Needless to say, unions representing teachers don’t like the idea.

Teachers’ unions also aren’t crazy about the governor’s idea to reform tenure, the mechanism that makes it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. His plan would grant it to teachers rated “highly effective,” but deny it to those who don’t make the grade – no matter how long they’ve taught.

Also along those lines, Jindal’s plan also would end the practice of “last in, first out” – the laying off of young teachers simply because they haven’t been on the job as long as others. This would allow schools to keep effective teachers and rid itself of bad ones – which research indicates does make a significant difference in students’ educational achievement. These reforms make sense to anyone without a vested interest in the status quo, meaning union bosses and progressives.

Michael Walker Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said of the school choice plan, “If I'm a parent in poverty I have no clue because I'm trying to struggle and live day to day.” Jindal and choice advocates could not have written a more tone-deaf line for their opponents if they’d tried.

Progressives think everyone but them is simply too dumb and/or distracted to negotiate school choice. You “have no clue,” but they, helpfully, know what is best for you and your children – as evidenced by the state of public education in America today. It’s the philosophy behind every progressive policy idea – from education to “financial reform” to ObamaCare. It is rare and refreshing to hear one of them actually say it.

Jones, in working to stop needed reforms, gave reformers their greatest arrow in a quiver full of arrows tipped with facts, studies and statistics. As Jindal continues his push to improve education in his state, there will be more “gaffes” of this sort. Progressives aren’t used to being openly challenged on such a large scale. Gov. Jindal is. For the sake of Louisiana’s students, let’s hope he wins.

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Derek Hunter

Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.