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When I was president of the Conservative Students Coalition at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, CA, I was used to being called a racist. A Nazi. A fascist. Even a “conservative piece of garbage.” With Nancy Pelosi as my representative in the House, you can see how I felt a bit out of place.
I allowed these sophomoric taunts to fade as quickly as I vacated the Bay Area after graduation.
Yet liberal taunts and accusations follow me today in the professional world, most prominently in Sam Tanenhaus’s article “Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue to Be the Party of White People” in The New Republic. If you haven’t read it, it essentially maintains that the modern Republican Party is the “party of white people” because of its conservative roots in the 1950s.
Tanenhaus’s central argument is that modern Republicans associate themselves with pro-slavery Southerner John Calhoun. This “Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.”
In past years, Tanenhaus has refused to confront conservatives at all; the esteemed R. Emmett Tyrrell even offered him a “friendly hand.” If he had, maybe he would have realized the diverse intricacy of the Republican Party.
Alas, he is simply wrong.
As Bob Tyrrell writes, “the Republican Party, too, has all kinds of exciting characters in it.”
It is these exciting characters, especially our innovative governors, who disprove this notion of Republican racism.
Over the ensuing weeks, I will showcase the policies of several different Republican governors, displaying who we are and where we can go as a party.
First, let us remember the benefits of a republican form of government. The governors who I will examine seek policies that promote the general welfare through the republican system.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 10 that “it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose.”
Republican governors seek public policies that authentically promote the general welfare. One of the most important issues for the empowerment of individuals is education.
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
Gov. Bobby Jindal has improved the lives of thousands of poor students in Louisiana with his school choice policies, providing a grand example of Madison’s ideal governing style.
Jindal emphasized the need for education reform in a speech from 2012 on the expansion of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP): “If we truly want to improve economic development, if we truly want to improve health care outcomes and lower our incarceration rates, it all comes back to providing our children with a better education.”
According to the Times-Picayune, the citizens love his school choice policies; last year, 60 percent of respondents supported the expansion of the LSP.
In a state where 66% of students receive free or subsidized lunches, education is incredibly important for economic advancement.
In effect since 2008, the LSP, formerly the Student Scholarships for Education Excellence Program, has offered thousands of poor children scholarships for “high-performing” public schools, parochial schools, and private academies.
The idea is to give the poorest students in the worst public schools a chance to attend a better school.
The state finances the scholarships through the Department of Education, specifically the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). The MFP allocates funding for education to each school district, varying the amounts based on degree of wealth; these range from $6,729 to $10,624 per pupil. After the Program allocates this funding to public school districts, it rewards scholarship grants to students who enroll in the program.
To be eligible, students must either be entering kindergarten in a family making an income below 250% of the federal poverty level, or be matriculated in a public school with a letter grade of C, D, or F.
After Governor Jindal expanded the Scholarship Program this year with Act 2, more than 10,400 students applied. Almost 5,000 of them enrolled with the grants, 91% of them minorities.
“More than 10,400 students applied for a scholarship for the 2012-2013 school year, and just under 5,000 students were awarded a seat. This shows parents want better educational options in Louisiana,” explained Stephanie Ryan, the Louisiana communications associate for the American Federation for Children, in an email.
For the current school year, 118 schools participated, but all but one of them were private. In the coming year, 134 different schools are participating.
While the 5,000 students currently enrolled receive a great education, much work still needs to be done to open accessibility and confront opponents.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association, along with 43 school boards, joined a lawsuit against the state, arguing that public school funds should not go to private academies.
This explains the lack of participation by public schools in the LSP: prohibition by school boards.
“Additionally, one of the biggest reasons that public schools are not participating is that many school boards have not allowed individual schools to decide whether they will participate,” Ryan wrote.
In November, the lawsuit resulted in the funding mechanism being ruled unconstitutional.
Judge Tim Kelley of Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District ruled that the state’s constitution mandated public funds only go to public schools, essentially nullifying funding through the Minimum Foundation Program.
Kelley ruled that the state constitution must be read literally in its clause that the MFP must only “insure a minimum foundation of education in all public elementary and secondary schools.”
The case will now go to the Louisiana Supreme Court on March 19.
While Jindal’s administration is hopeful the Court will overturn Kelley’s ruling, the Department of Education is committed to ensuring the program remains in operation.
We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will overturn the November court ruling from the 19th Judicial District court,” Ryan confirmed. “However, the Louisiana Department of Education and Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration are fully committed to ensuring the program will continue, no matter what the ruling is in March.”
Jindal is also responsible for opening charter schools in New Orleans in a state where over 33,000 students now attend charters.
Not just relying on public funds, the governor also allowed for a maximum $5,000 tax deduction for private school tuition in 2011.
Education, as Dr. Ben Carson emphasizes here, empowers every individual to be free. Republicans realize that it is essential for this republic.
The more than 4,000 minority students who now attend better schools know it too.
This is the Republican Party today. Our ideas will advance the country’s future.
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