Jindal’s Cagey Tara Hollis Donation

Jeremy Alford at the Jefferson Report has an interesting little story today on a $5,000 donation Bobby Jindal’s campaign made to his Democrat opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Yep. You read that right. Jindal gave Tara Hollis $5,000.

The gift wasn’t quite as weird as it sounds. The money did come from Jindal’s campaign, but it didn’t go into Hollis’ war chest.

Hollis, who launched a campaign for governor a couple of months ago as a Democrat who says she voted for Jindal in 2007 but that he’s disappointed her, is a school teacher from Haynesville. She actually teaches middle-school kids at Haynesville Junior/Senior High School.

So far, Hollis is the only Democrat in the race. By now one would expect a Democrat politician of some stature to at least step forward as a standard bearer/sacrificial lamb, and speculation has centered around (at times) millionaire ex-Republican dilettante John Georges or prominent African-American names like Cleo Fields, Karen Carter and even Marc Morial, but as it happens she might just be all the Dems have.

But as a school teacher, Hollis has her class enrolled in the Adopt-A-Classroom program. And on her page at that program’s site she made this plea…

Due to budget cuts, we have been denied funding for any new equipment or supplies for next year. Through a great deal of research, I have found wonderful new reading software that would help my students to grow closer to achieving their goal in becoming literate. There are also several others things I would like to buy that could be used to aid my students with their various learning goals. It breaks my heart to think that budget cuts are taking money from my special needs children; I only hope that I will be able to apply for enough grants to make up for what State-funding will not.

Jindal’s campaign put up the five grand.

Alford quotes state GOP spokesman Aaron Baer as saying this was just a worthy cause the campaign thought they’d throw a few bucks to. And you’re free to believe it was only that if you like.

It was enough to catch the attention of Jindal, said Aaron Baer, the governor’s campaign spokesman. “Governor Jindal has increased funding for K-12 education through the MFP by over $200 million since taking office,” Baer said. “When the campaign heard about Mrs. Hollis’ concerns and the opportunity to adopt her classroom, we wanted to do what we could to help out.”

Hollis’ letter in response, after thanking Jindal for his magnanimity, took a less touchy-feely turn…

Governor, there are so many classrooms in need in our state that I feel deeply guilty about being the sole recipient of such largesse. The same budget cuts that have placed my School District in such difficulty have affected schools in all of the State’s sixty-four Parishes. As you know, the local school board is the largest employer in virtually every Parish in Louisiana.

I was thinking that perhaps you would be willing to extend the same generosity to adopt at least one needy classroom in each of Louisiana’s roughly two-thousand public schools.  I think you will find that such a gift, to teachers and classrooms far more worthy than I, would have a profound impact on our State.

Governor, such a donation on your part to the schools of our State, just like the $5,000 you donated to my classroom shouldn’t cost too much.  I estimate it would only cost about $10 million dollars.

The $10 million figure would cover virtually everything in Jindal’s campaign war chest.

Jindal has held the line on state Minimum Foundation Program spending in the last two years, as Louisiana’s budget has suffered from revenue shortfalls. But as Baer said, Jindal is still funding the MFP at $200 million more than it was being funded when it took office. It’s also interesting that another initiative by members of the Governor’s family to use private resources to aid technology in the classroom was slandered by Democrat operatives as political corruption; were Jindal to take Hollis’ advice, should anyone expect different treatment by his political adversaries?

As we discussed earlier today, there’s a trend back toward local control and funding of things like K-12 education – a healthy trend, as state spending and control of things like education have produced lousy results.

In Haynesville, which as Hollis notes the Claiborne Parish school board is the largest employer – information from the parish indicates that the school board is the only employer in a parish of some 17,000 people with more than 500 folks on salary.

The Parish also said that as of 2000 – and there isn’t much reason to believe things are substantially different now – there were 2,881 students in nine public schools in Claiborne Parish. It seems like a student population that small doesn’t particularly need 500 to 1,000 employees, and that might be one reason why taxpayers ponying up an extra $200 million in state support for local school systems like the one Hollis works in isn’t enough for her to get access to good reading software.

If Claiborne Parish’s school system is taking budget cuts and yet state support is actually increasing, it’s worth asking why this is Jindal’s fault. But it’s instructive that Louisiana’s lone Democrat candidate believes the answer to Louisiana’s educational problems is $10 million of somebody else’s money spent across the board without specificity or accountability. As if that approach hasn’t repeatedly failed in the past.

Jindal’s $5,000 bought that lesson, whether he intended it or not. Even if things are as Baer says, the political result of the exchange is a winner for the Governor – against Hollis, and against other Democrats who might jump into the race.

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