Mary Matalin claimed that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal “made more progress in Louisiana in the shortest period of time in the history of the state and probably in the country. Education reform and ethics reform -- everything that put Louisiana down in scale is now one of the top states in the country.” In fact, the Louisiana Department of Education noted that the 13th edition of Education Week's “series of annual report cards tracking state education policies and outcomes” found that “gains were minimal” in the state since the previous report and that "[i]n overall rank, Louisiana dropped from 21st last year to 35th this year."
During the February 26 edition of NBC's Today, Mary Matalin, chief editor of the conservative publishing imprint Threshold Editions, claimed that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) “made more progress in Louisiana in the shortest period of time in the history of the state and probably in the country. Education reform and ethics reform -- everything that put Louisiana down in scale is now one of the top states in the country.” Matalin cited no evidence in support of her suggestion that Louisiana is “now one of the top states in the country” in education due to Jindal's “education reform” since he became governor in January 2008. In fact, as the Louisiana Department of Education stated in a January 7 press release, Quality Counts 2009 (subscription required), the “13th edition of Education Week's series of annual report cards tracking state education policies and outcomes,” found that, in the Department's words, “gains were minimal” since the previous report and that "[i]n overall rank, Louisiana dropped from 21st last year to 35th this year." Indeed, in two of the three broad categories in which states and the District of Columbia were graded in Quality Counts, Louisiana ranked in the bottom five states, while in the third category, Louisiana dropped in rank since 2008.
The report -- based in part on surveys distributed to all states and the District of Columbia July 7, 2008, and dealing with policies “in place at the time of the survey or for the 2008-09 school year” -- provides grades to states in three categories: “the Chance-for-Success Index, policies related to transitions and alignment, and educational spending patterns and the equity of school finances.” The report also provides “Overall Grades & Scores” -- Louisiana received a score of 74.4 and a grade of C, compared with the national average of 76.2 and C.
In the Chance-for-Success Index, which the report describes as “combin[ing] information from 13 indicators intended to offer perspective on the role that education plays as a person moves from childhood, through the formal K-12 school system, and into the workforce,” Louisiana ranked 48th and received a grade of D+; the nation as a whole received a C+. The Louisiana Department of Education stated that “Louisiana's grade remained the same, D+, but the state did improve its ranking from 50th last year to 48th this year.”
In school finance, based on analysis of “school spending patterns and how equitably that funding is distributed among districts within each state,” Louisiana ranked 49th and received a grade of D, compared with the C+ grade for the average state. Louisiana's rank is last overall, as Hawaii and the District of Columbia do not receive grades for school finance, because as single-district jurisdictions, “it is not possible to calculate measures of financial equity, which capture the distribution of funding across districts within a state.” The Department stated that Louisiana “went down in rank” from the previous year, when it received a C+ and was ranked 25th in this category.
Concerning transitions and alignment, an assessment of “how well the states smooth the transition through the educational pipeline, including early-childhood education, college readiness, and the economy and workforce,” Louisiana ranked 23rd and received a grade of C, the same as the average state. However, according to the Department's press release, the “state dropped in rank from 19th in 2007 to 22nd in 2008” in this category.
From the February 26 edition of NBC's Today:
MEREDITH VIEIRA (co-host): You know, you talk about a united Republican Party, but I want to read to you something that David Brooks said. Now, he's a conservative columnist. This was after Governor Bobby Jindal gave the response to President Obama's speech on Tuesday. Brooks said, “To come up at this moment in history with a stale 'government is the problem,' 'we can't trust the federal government' -- it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now.” And he went on to suggest that the party is out of touch with where this country is and where it is headed. So you do not agree with what he said?
MATALIN: No, I don't, and I live in Louisiana now, as you know, and Bobby Jindal is an extraordinary public servant. He's the greatest public policy innovator in the country today, and that isn't what he said. That's David Brooks' rendition of it -- who's a friend. But his -- Bobby Jindal has made more progress in Louisiana in the shortest period of time in the history of the state and probably in the country. Education reform and ethics reform -- everything that put Louisiana down in scale is now one of the top states in the country.
What people were objecting to about Governor Jindal's presentation was the presentation itself, and you know, demonstrably, he was much stronger on Meet the Press and much stronger on the Today show than he was in front of a teleprompter. I think if you want to take the measure of the man, I'd rather see him be able to go up against you than stand in front of a teleprompter.
VIEIRA: But you know, Mary, it wasn't just that. It was -- and he -- again, conservatives were criticizing him for stale ideas. He didn't say anything, nothing new.
MATALIN: These are -- no, these are not stale ideas. These are the essence of the -- of fiscal conservativism upon which this country was founded and prospered, and he is applying in the state of Louisiana.