Gov. Jindal: DOJ trying to 'trap' kids in failing schools

Battle over school voucher program in Louisiana


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," August 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, is the next civil rights battle actually going to be in classroom? The Justice Department just blocking implementation of Louisiana's school voucher program. That program allows students to transfer out of failing public schools and into private ones using tax dollars.

The Justice Department claims that it would impact the racial balance in some districts still under federal desegregation orders.

Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal says it's the DOJ that's discriminating.

Governor, very good to have you.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R-LA.: Neil, thanks for having me today.

CAVUTO: Talk about weird timing, right? This dust-up right on Martin Luther King Day. What do you think?

JINDAL: You know, it's amazing to me.

The Department of Justice, the Obama administration are using the same rules designed to protect minority children to actually keep them trapped in failing public schools. We have got 8,000 kids in the scholarship program; 100 percent are low income; 100 percent came out of C, D, or F public schools; 93 percent of their parents are happier in the schools that they're in now; 100 percent of their parents chose to put them in these other schools. We're saving taxpayers money, we're delivering a better education.

Governor Wilder is right. Martin Luther King's dream, it was an amazing speech 50 years ago, that we should be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. He's exactly right. To achieve that dream, it starts with education. We're trying to do that in Louisiana. We're getting fantastic results.

My parents came here over 40 years ago in search of the American dream, confident if you worked hard, it didn't matter what race you were, didn't matter who you knew. That's what we're trying to deliver for our kids. And that's why it's just ridiculous to me that the Obama administration would side with teachers unions over these young children.

CAVUTO: Do you think that was the case, that this was teachers unions winning out and they didn't like this for fear of where it would go and it might endanger their jobs?

JINDAL: Oh, absolutely.

Look, they tried, they tried to take us all the way up to the state Supreme Court to stop this program. The teachers unions did. The program is still here. They tried recalling our speaker of the House and me and some others. And we're still here. The reality is, teachers unions, when we started this statewide, said that parents don't have a clue when it comes to making choices for their kids.

That's their world viewpoint. These government unions think the bureaucrats know better. I have met with the moms. And, Neil, it would break your heart that they're working multiple jobs. They want their kids to have a better quality of life than they have had. They're trying to do the right thing. They're telling me this is the first time my kid is bringing home homework, my kid is going to school with discipline. My kids are talking about for the first time thinking about going to college, the first one in our families to graduate from high school. They're talking about becoming the first ones.

That's exactly what we want to happen. These are moms wanting their sons and daughters to live the American dream, and you have got the Obama administration playing politics. To me, it's ridiculous. You're taking the same rules designed to protect the most vulnerable kids and now saying we're going to trap kids in failing schools.

Let's be clear. They're coming from schools, C, D, or F schools. An F school means less than half the kids -- just half the kids are at grade level. Half or more are below grade level. No kid should be forced to go to those schools.

Look, you know, Eric Holder is not sending his kids to those schools. The president is not sending his kids to those schools. Let's give these parents a real chance.

CAVUTO: Governor, maybe what the administration is saying is we favor another approach, something that your Republican gubernatorial colleague Chris Christie is doing in New Jersey, and that's an extension of this sort of pay for performance. It started as a national Education Department initiative and Christie has put his own measures behind it, where if you teach in a bad area, you're getting good results or good test scores with those kids, you get a bonus, up to a $12,500 bonus, depending on those scores, depending on the graduation rate, et cetera, that that's the way they're going, not the charter school route.

What do you think?

JINDAL: Well, you know, the reality is we have got 40,000 kids in charter schools. They didn't challenge that. They just challenged the scholarship program. We changed our tenure and our compensation and hiring and firing policies, linking it all the student achievement.

Ironically, the same federal judge the Department of Justice is going to, that is the same judge that tried to stop us from doing the tenure reforms in a parish with deseg orders. Fortunately, we were able to get his -- we went to appellate court. We got -- at least temporarily, we won there. Now we will have our full hearing in the appellate court.

Look, this is, at the end of the day, it shouldn't be about the race of the kids, it shouldn't be about politics, it shouldn't be about teacher unions. It should be about student achievement.

The American dream, there's really -- Neil, there's two visions here. One is that you give every child a chance to work hard, get a great education, pursue the American dream. Then you have got the president's view, which is all about redistribution. It's about equal outcomes, and not equal opportunity. That's what is despicable about this.

The American dream -- and what I think Martin Luther King was talking about 50 years ago was every child should have the opportunity to pursue that dream. My dad is one of nine, the first that got past the fifth grade. I wouldn't be here today if he didn't have the confidence that in America you can do whatever you want.

But it starts with a great education. That's what makes this so pernicious, that this is all about these kids. All they want is a great education. Who are they hurting? They're saving taxpayers money. They're doing better in school. The program has been phenomenally successful.

We started our first year in New Orleans. We're up to a couple of thousand kids. Last year, we had 10,000 kids apply. We were able to place 5,000 of them. This year, it was 12,000 kids applied and we were able to place 8,000 of them. There's huge demand. Parents want to get out of these failing schools.

The only ones standing in the way are politicians listening to government unions. It's time for the Obama administration to stand down and say we prioritize children, not politics.

CAVUTO: I mentioned before Governor Christie. If you will indulge me, Governor, I wonder if you two are getting along.


CAVUTO: Many said he made a broad sort of swipe at you addressing some Republican donors a few weeks ago in Boston. And I'm quoting here: "I'm not going to be one of these people who goes and calls our party stupid. We need to stop navel-gazing."

You had said we don't want to be the party of stupid -- paraphrasing here. Do you think he was taking a swipe at you, and were you offended?

JINDAL: No, look, I'm not offended.

I'm the head of the RGA. I'm trying to help get Chris reelected.

CAVUTO: Republican Governors Association, right?


JINDAL: Yes. I'm sorry, Republican Governors Association.

We got 30 governors this year. We're trying help Chris get re-elected in New Jersey. He's done a great job for the people of New Jersey. Trying to help Ken Cuccinelli up in Virginia. He will be a great governor.


CAVUTO: Well, did you call him up after that and just say, hey, what gives?


Look, Chris and I see each other all the time. I will say this, two things. One, we absolutely have to be -- as a party we have got to be smarter. I was saying that we lost an election last year that I thought we could have won. I'm willing to speak the hard truths and say what needs to do.

I don't think we need to become a second liberal party. I don't think we need to become another Democratic Party. I don't think we need to abandon our principles. I wrote an op-ed ironically several weeks ago saying we have got to stop the navel-gazing. Let's go fight for our principles. Let's defund ObamaCare. Let's balance the budget. Let's stop growing government. Chris and I get along great. Like I said, I see him all the time at RGA and other events.


CAVUTO: I'm sorry, Governor, but you don't think he was talking about you there and taking a swipe at you there? Because it seems that way to me.

JINDAL: I have no -- look, I have no idea, and I really don't care.


JINDAL: What I care about is winning -- him -- helping him win his re-election and helping Ken win his election.

And then in 2014 we have got dozens of other governors up. What's important to me is as the Republican Party we have to stand for conservative principles. And I'm more -- I'm going to speak the hard truths. When it's time to tell my party we got to do something different, we have got to be smarter party, we got to stop saying dumb things and we have got to fight for our principles.

Educational choice is a great opportunity for us, by the way. It's consistent with our principles.


CAVUTO: Very good point. I know.

When I had Ron Paul on, he took a dim view of Governor Christie and he didn't like the way Christie and his son Rand Paul had gotten into this dust-up over who is a real Republican and what really matters, and I'm getting a sense, Governor, that on issues like surveillance, on an issue like the intrusiveness of government, there are the mainstreamers in the party and there are those who just say hands off, even extending now to whether we go into Syria or not, and that this is a real battle going on for the soul of the party.

Is it?

JINDAL: Well, let's talk about the issue, the dust-up between the two of them about surveillance.

I think there's a healthy tension in the Republican Party. I think it's a good thing we have got these libertarian tendencies within our party.


CAVUTO: Which tendencies do you have? Which tendencies do you have? More of the Rand Paul or the Chris Christie cool it because this keeps us safe?

JINDAL: No, no, look, we need to keep ourselves safe, but we need to protect ourselves from an intrusive government.

One example in that debate, I think the water's edge is important. Look, I don't mind us using surveillance and drones, killing terrorists abroad. I do have grave concerns about the government using some of those same tactics here at home, but we need to have those debates with this administration.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

JINDAL: Look at all these scandals, IRS, AP, Benghazi. This is the inevitable result of an overly large, intrusive government. Something a lot of Americans, not just Republicans, are saying, because of the Obama administration, we want to limit government. The Founding Fathers wanted a limited government.

CAVUTO: All right.

JINDAL: Let's not give up our security, but we can have our freedom as well.

CAVUTO: Governor Bobby Jindal, thank you very much.

JINDAL: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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