Today at an event in Baton Rouge touting a plan he says will increase Louisiana’s economic competitiveness, Gov. Bobby Jindal found himself asked once again about the statement made by Louisiana Association of Educators executive director Michael Walker-Jones to the effect that poor parents don’t have the wherewithal to choose schools for their kids.
The exact quote from Walker-Jones was “If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day. The idea of parents making decisions simply based on choice is the abandonment of public schools.”
Jindal demanded that Walker-Jones apologize. Walker-Jones immediately went to ground.
That’s not good enough for the governor. Particularly when the media asked him about it today.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday that the executive director of one of Louisiana’s largest teacher unions should resign.
Jindal has repeatedly criticized Michael Walker-Jones, a top official of the Louisiana Association of Educators, after Walker-Jones was quoted as saying that some parents in poverty may not have the time or information to make a decision on their child’s education.
“It is offensive to me that it has now been more than a week and a half and neither the executive director nor the union itself has repudiated these comments, has apologized for these comments,” Jindal told reporters after making an economic development announcement.
“Absolutely, I think that he should step down,” he added later.
Jindal doesn’t care whether Walker-Jones keeps his job or not. What he’s hoping for is that if Walker-Jones ventures forth to issue any more goofy or ill-advised critiques of the governor’s education reform program he’ll be remembered for his gaffe a week ago. At that point he may be tagged as “embattled Louisiana Association of Educators executive director Michael Walker-Jones,” – if he was a conservative figure he’d undoubtedly be cast that way.
Will that work? Well, the Baton Rouge Advocate’s treatment of the statement didn’t exactly take the bait…
Walker-Jones has said the message he tried to convey was that parents are owed more information about their schools than they are getting.
He could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Walker-Jones declined comment when asked about Jindal’s criticism.
The governor’s resignation request is unusual because Walker-Jones works for a private organization, not state government.
Jindal has made the comment a regular part of his recent speeches spelling out his public school plans.
Last week, he told supporters that the remark was “arrogant” and represents an “elitist mentality” that has damaged education nationally.
The Times-Picayune’s Stephanie Grace, no friend of Jindal she, was a little less fired up even than the Advocate was, though she didn’t begrudge Jindal his PR offensive at Walker-Jones’ expense…
For someone who insists that a top teacher union official’s inartful comment about poor parents is the worst thing ever, Gov. Bobby Jindal is sure acting like Michael Walker-Jones’ gaffe is the best thing ever.
In the week since the Louisiana Association of Educators’ executive director contended that parents who’d be eligible for a Jindal-proposed private school voucher program have “no clue” about how to make informed choices for their kids, the governor and his staff have missed no opportunity to publicize their outrage.
And where no opportunity presents itself, the Jindal camp has created its own. Recent emails from the governor’s office or political account have carried subject lines such as “Insulting,” “It’s Offensive,” and “Still No Apology.”
They just can’t seem to stop — or have no remote interest in doing so.
But Jindal’s Walker-Jones gambit is a decent strategic move in any event. He’s going to have the LAE screaming bloody murder at every turn no matter what he says as the debate goes forward on education reform, so he might as well do what he can to turn the spotlight on how that teachers’ union is run by a guy who thinks parents of public school kids are so stupid and so destitute that they can’t manage to pick a school for their children – and how those parents need the Almighty Educrats to do their job for them.
The fact is that if Jindal’s reform package makes it through the legislature in anything even remotely close to its current form it’ll be the end of the LAE and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the state’s other teacher union. The unions understand this is the end for them, so they’re going to fight as dirty as they can. If Jindal wants to get this done, and politically he’s got to get a great deal of it through the legislature or else he’s going to be considered as a failure, then he’s got to use every weapon in the arsenal.
This is going to get good.