Bobby Jindal is outraged over a Department of Justice lawsuit against a Louisiana school voucher program. The suit, which he (repeatedly) calls “cynical, immoral, and hypocritical” and the “worst misuse” of federal desegregation laws, aims to stop a program that allows poor students in failing schools to enter a lottery for a voucher to attend a better school. The program is an integral part of Jindal’s education agenda, which he’s been implementing in Louisiana since he was first elected governor in 2007.
But the Obama administration’s attempt to thwart the voucher program has also been a gift for Jindal, who may run for president in 2016. Since the DOJ filed its lawsuit on August 18, Jindal has been campaigning loudly and publicly against the suit and, more broadly, for conservative education reform. In a political environment where the president and the media define GOP by the House of Representatives and its struggles to stop his progressive agenda, Jindal is turning the tables, arguing that it's Obama and the Democrats who are impeding progress.
The Louisiana Republican has appeared on NBC and Fox News to defend the voucher program and criticize the administration.
“Now the Department of Justice, using the same rules that were there to prevent discrimination against minority children, is going after some of these parents and some of these kids and saying, ‘We don't know that we want to allow you to make this choice,’” Jindal said on Meet the Press, two days after DOJ’s announcement.
And today he brought his fight to Washington. At a press conference just a few blocks from the White House, and attended by national media outlets like the New York Times and Politico and education trade journals like Education Week, Jindal continued to argue his side, directing his message to Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder.
“We’re going to fight,” Jindal said. “We’re going to go every step of the way to make sure that these children have a chance to get a great education. I repeat my invitation to the president and the attorney general. They need to drop this lawsuit.”
Joining Jindal at the press conference was former Florida governor Jeb Bush, whose tenure in Tallahassee was marked by widely applauded reforms to that state’s education system. Bush added to the criticisms of the DOJ’s suit.
“It is a political action focused on the adults in the system that have economic interests, more than anything else,” Bush said.
By standing with Jindal, Bush adds depth to the bench. The risk for Jindal is that his compatriot in this fight may run for president himself. Would there be room on the GOP presidential primary stage for two education policy reformers? When asked by the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin about the 2016 race, Bush, the younger brother and son of the last two Republican presidents, declined to comment.
But for now, they're standing together to fight Obama.