Research & Commentary: Louisiana Education Reforms

Published February 13, 2012

In January 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) proposed policies that would shift the state’s education system toward greater accountability, freedom, and choice. His proposals include the largest voucher program in the nation, altering teacher tenure and pay, a Parent Trigger to initiate school-level reforms, and giving principals authority to hire, evaluate, and fire. Approximately 400,000 students would be eligible for state vouchers.

Jindal’s plan would allow students to take classes from varied providers, including virtual schools, colleges and universities, and businesses with training programs. He’d give high school students who graduate early half of their per-pupil state spending as a college scholarship. He also would extend charter school authorization authority to approved nonprofits, universities, and community organizations.

Teacher unions and other status-quo advocates immediately criticized the governor’s proposals, saying they would destabilize the state’s public education system and reduce teachers’ job security. They also claimed parents are not mentally equipped to choose a good education for their children.

The governor and school choice advocates say measures such as these benefit students, parents, administrators, and teachers by repealing stifling mandates and allowing competition to encourage voluntary cooperation and excellence. Since Louisiana has for decades remained in the bottom five states for students’ standardized test scores, they say disrupting such a dysfunctional system is essential. Parents love and know their children best, they note, and thus are the individuals most fully motivated to pursue their children’s best interests.

The following documents offer more information about Jindal’s education reform proposal.


Jindal Proposes Vouchers, Tenure Changes in Ed Reform Package
The Louisiana governor’s “ambitious” reform package is likely to have a strong showing in the state legislature but require “hard work” from legislators, reports School Reform News. The state’s historically strong private and parochial schools are well-positioned to help transform the state’s education landscape should his myriad reform proposals go into effect.

Gov. Bobby Jindal Details School Voucher, Teacher Tenure Proposals
The Times-Picayune summarizes Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) education reform plans for vouchers, charter schools, teacher tenure, and preschool. The article also outlines the political forces affecting reform in a state with weakened but still-vocal teacher unions. The governor’s proposal essentially would enact “money follows the child” state education funding, it notes.

Governor Jindal Unveils Education Reform Plan
The text of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) speech outlining his education proposals, which include a statewide voucher system for low-income families, eliminating “step and lane” and “last in, first out” policies, a Parent Trigger, expansion of the entities allowed to authorize charter schools, and greatly increasing school administrators’ flexibility to manage staff, money, and instruction.

Jindal: La. at Crossroads
The Louisiana Advocate reports Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has been telling state lawmakers sweeping pension and education reforms will change the course of Louisiana. The state has a chance to positively change its future and transform currently unsustainable systems, Jindal said.

New School Choice Yearbook Reveals Record Enrollment as Louisiana Looks Towards Expansion in 2012
More than 2,000 students are enrolled in Louisiana’s two voucher programs, an enrollment gain consistent with remarkable growth of similar programs around the country, announced the Louisiana Federation for Children. That growth rate and the more-than 50 schools now providing Louisiana children with an opportunity to attend a private school of their parents’ choice are record-setting numbers for the new program.

Louisiana Vouchers Would Need to Provide Good Options
A school voucher skeptic writes in the Times-Picayune of quality control provisions in the governor’s education reform plan that have and will win him over. These include offering report cards of voucher-accepting school and student performance, requiring attendance reporting, and occasional audits to prevent fraud and waste, Andre Perry writes.

Our View: Louisiana Must Change for the Sake of Students
Louisiana’s current K-12 education model is failing most Louisianans and needs to change, editorializes The Town Talk in central Louisiana. Vouchers will provide for a good education and put families, towns, and parishes at the center of shared and equal opportunity.

Louisiana’s Plan to Empower Parents Through School Choice
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) education reform plan will set parents free to make education decisions that are in the best interests of their children, writes Rachel Sheffield of The Heritage Foundation. Jindal’s policies will restructure education funding to maximize flexibility and outcomes, expand high-quality charter schools, offer an education tax credit for contributions to private school scholarship funds, and increase class options for students, Sheffield writes.

Jindal’s Education Moon Shot
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) wants to create the nation’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime all in one legislative session, note the editors of the Wall Street Journal. “Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly,” they write. Funding for the vouchers would come from the state’s per-child allocation, with every voucher student receiving approximately $8,500, “hitting the bureaucracy where it hurts. This is called competition, that crucial quality missing where monopolies reign.”

Historic Release of Letter Grades Underscore State’s Education Reform Agenda
This release from Louisiana’s Department of Education thoroughly explains facts about the state’s education system pertinent to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s intended education reforms. Forty-four percent of the state’s public schools earn D’s or F’s on the statewide rating system, an 11 percentage point decline since 2007. The report explains the state’s grading system and its standards and notes the success of the state’s Recovery School District in New Orleans, where a pilot voucher program has operated since 2009.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland education policy research fellow Joy Pullmann, at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].