LA Governor Bobby Jindal On Common Core and 2016
HH: I begin today’s program with the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. It’s great to speak with you.
BJ: Hugh, it’s always great to be on your show. It’s always a privilege to be with you. Thank you for having me back.
HH: You know, I missed you at the Western States Conservative Summit. I had spent the week teaching a couple, 120 young conservatives, and they were all ecstatic about your address there. But the issue that dominated the summit in the hallway was the Common Core. And I’ve been telling everyone not to underestimate the power of this issue in the 2014-2016 cycle. And today, you actually took major action on this.
BJ: You’re exactly right. Well, absolutely, Hugh. We actually went to federal court today to try to stop Common Core. I couldn’t agree with you more. First of all, it was exciting to see all those conservatives. That summit has gotten bigger and bigger every year. I agree with you. The more that parents learn about Common Core, the more the teachers learn about Common Core, the more they dislike it. In my state, a majority of teachers oppose it, according to even the teacher unions, and we’re seeing across the country, where you’re seeing survey after survey, show that the more people learn about this, the less they like it. Our lawsuit today against Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education says that the federal Department of Education is violating the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, and violating existing federal laws by trying to force a federal common curriculum through Common Core onto the states. And they’ve done that through funding and threats of funding, and threats of cuts. They are not allowed. We have never given the federal government in this country the power to make local curriculum decisions. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do with Common Core.
HH: Now Governor, I have heard, I have tried to maintain a fairly balanced position. I’ve had Governor Bush on, I’ve had people from the Chamber of Commerce on. At the same time, I’ve had on vocal opponents like Marco Rubio, yourself today. Common Core seems to me to have been a good idea, well-launched that’s gone terribly wrong, like a rocket on the pad that blew up. What, do you think the intentions were good?
BJ: Absolutely. Hugh, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was originally one of those that said it makes sense to have voluntary standards, to have the state lead this effort to put rigor in our classrooms. I think where this blew up, to use your analogy, I couldn’t agree more, where it went off the track is that the federal government decided to make this a top-down approach. So that for example, Arne Duncan said if you want Race To The Top dollars, you basically have to adopt Common Core. If you wanted No Child Left Behind waivers, you’ve got to adopt Common Core. The federal government gave money to park the smart balance that developed our assessments. When Oklahoma tried to get out of Common Core, the federal government, Arne Duncan, threatened the governor with cuts of millions and millions of dollars. They developed this in secret. There was no transparency. There was no chance for input. They rushed the process. They’re not doing open bids. There was no transparency for parents or educations or others to say wait a minute, we’ve got concerns. And so the earliest reading list frustrated parents. The math lessons, and I say this as a father, not just as a governor. Sit down with your kids, and it’s so frustrating, you’ve got kids saying daddy, I know the right answer. I just don’t understand why I’ve got to do it this way. The new new math, I think the execution completely botched this. I think the intent did turn, I do think, and I give them, I’m not questioning the original intent, but I think it was a bait and switch. They said they were going to do one thing, and I think when you look at what they actually did, it turned out to be a disguise for the federal government to take over curriculum decisions. But we shouldn’t be surprised with this administration. Look, they did it with Obamacare and health care. This is a president who doesn’t think we’re smart enough to pick our own health insurance. He doesn’t think we’re smart enough to have religious liberty rights, to have 2nd Amendment rights. This is a group that doesn’t think we’re smart enough to buy a Big Gulp. They think they know better than us. It’s an elitist attitude, and now we’re seeing it apply to K-12 eduation.
HH: Common Core, I’ve compared it to a meteor strike on American education, meaning that it’s really disrupted everything from teacher hiring through curriculum choices. It’s postponed testing. It’s made parents very afraid that their children are going to be disadvantaged in the search for admission to college. All of these are real world and real time consequences, Governor Jindal. Does a lawsuit in any way slow that down?
BJ: A couple of things. Hopefully, the judge will agree with us and stop this, give us an injunction. This is important enough to get right. I couldn’t agree with you more. Look, this is going to impact kids’, their ability to get college credit for what they’re learning in high school. We’re seeing the impact on AP exams. It’ll have an impact on some of the standardized tests. It’s had an impact on teacher evaluations, which show you how, and what’s interesting is the folks that are pushing Common Core, they’ll try to tell you this is just about standards. And then, all of a sudden, it’s about the tests. And then all of a sudden, it’s about curriculum decisions. This is absolutely about what gets taught in our classrooms. They try to pretend like this is not a big deal. They try to pretend like this is just about standards. The reality is the standards drive the tests. The tests drives what gets taught. This is absolutely about the reading lists, it’s about the math problems that your kids will get in their classrooms this fall. So this does have profound implications, and our lawsuit says they cannot go out and do this.
HH: I’m just learning this. It’s about who gets hired as well, teachers trying to get jobs have to be able to read back the Common Core-accepted wisdom. I mean, it’s become a screening tool for new teachers which is somewhat ominous, Bobby Jindal, that what was supposed to be standards have become in fact like a union card. And I’m concerned that the education establishment, conservative and Republican, or liberal and Democrat, don’t understand the level of frustration and fear about this, and yet they’re just going forward full steam.
BJ: Oh, the arrogance, and the amazing thing, Hugh, is they dismissed parents’ legitimate concerns. Parents are saying I can’t even help my child do their homework. I don’t understand why they’re doing this. I don’t understand how this is going to help my child. But you know, we see the same arrogance from the left when it comes to telling kids and telling parents well, you shouldn’t have a choice about where your kids go to school. When we did a statewide choice program, we had unions tell us well look, parents don’t have a clue when it comes to making decisions for their kids. We had the Eric Holder Department of Justice sue us in federal court to try to stop the program, even though 93% of the parents were happy with the program. And we won that lawsuit, but I think you’re right. There is a pattern here where again, they don’t understand how important this is. Look, there is almost nothing more important to a parent then the welfare of their child. So they’re going to be fiercely interested and invested in how these decisions impact their child. I think that the opponents of Common Core, they’re hoping will go away, they’re hoping will be quiet. They’ll hope that they can just force this down our throats, and then there’s no recourse then there’s just nothing you can do. And I think they’re actually being surprised about how loud and how growing the number of parents, and the number of states that are moving away from this. I think it’s actually taken them by surprise. I think they got all the smart guys in a room in D.C., and thought they knew better than us, and can’t believe the natives are restless out there.
HH: Well, I’m encouraging my friends in the local school board community to be very open to listening to parents’ concerns, and to be very willing to change patterns, and to be very willing to embrace the idea that we’ll get what’s right right, and we’ll not accept the whole deal. But let me ask you, Governor Jindal, in terms of politics, I actually don’t think it’s possible, I think Governor Bush’s presidential ambitious, if he held them, are dashed. I don’t think you can actually run for the presidency this year as a Republican if you are pro-Common Core, and still pro-Common Core. What are your thoughts on the Republican Party and Common Core?
BJ: Well look, I am personally opposed to it. I think it’s inconsistent with our emphasis on local control, local government, on parents knowing what’s best. I think it’s inconsistent with a federalist approach, the 10th Amendment. I think that it violates our core beliefs. This isn’t just a debate about, it is a debate about education and standards, but it’s not just a debate about that. It’s also a debate about the proper role of the federal government. I’m a believer in a conservative Constitutional approach to governance, and I hope that’s the future of the Republican Party. The voters get to decide. You know, I’m not one to think that the party insiders, the consultants, the donors, should get to pick. Ultimately, the primary voters will get to decide the future of our party. The general election voters will decide the future of our country. So I trust the wisdom of the voters. And I’m confident is that the more people learn about this, even Democrats, independents and others, the more they dislike this. This is not just offensive, I think, to conservative and Republican parents. I think this is also offensive to parents who are looking at our teachers, looking at our kids, and saying if this is such a great idea, why don’t they slow down and listen to us? Why do they distrust local school boards and local schools so much? So I hope the Republican Party ends up on the Constitutional and the federalist side that has defined us. Here’s the danger for us. We must not become the party of big government, but we must not also become the party of big business. There are some Republican folks on the other side of this, and there are some big businesses on the other side of this, and I just, my question for our party is let’s not become the party of big government or big business.
HH: But there’s also a need. I mean, some of the scores are very alarming, especially on the STEM scores, on science, technology, math, engineering. We are way behind. And so the Common Core impetus remains, and education reform remains, I think, central to the future of the GOP and the country.
BJ: Absolutely, and that’s why, look, I’m not arguing for complacency. I’m against social promotion. We’ve done teacher evaluations based on student achievement. We have completely revamped tenure, hiring, firing, promotion rules that are tied to student success. We do statewide school choice. We’ve got 90% of our kids in New Orleans in charter schools as one example. We allow the dollars to follow the child, whether it’s to private or parochial or Christian or independent or online or new enrollment programs. We’ve got as a result in Louisiana record high graduation rates, record growth, and AP exam scores and other indicators. The test, we’ve got more work to do, but Hugh, you’re exactly right. We cannot be complacent. The status quo wasn’t working. I believe we’ve got to break up the monopoly, allow the dollars to follow the child, trust parents to make the best decision for their kids. So I agree. That’s why I think originally, the original idea behind rigor and standards and voluntary, the states working together at the local level, was a good one. I just think it’s a shame it got hijacked to become a vehicle for the federal government. But I agree with you. We can’t just go back to the status quo. We still have work to do, because our kids have to have a great education if they’re going to compete in this economy. And as an aspirational party, the Republican Party, we’re not about redistribution. We’re not about the equality of outcomes. We’re about the equality of opportunity. We’re the party that believes the circumstances of your birth don’t determine your outcomes as an adult. If we’re sincere about that, we need to make sure that millions of American kids aren’t trapped in failing schools like they are today.
HH: Now Governor Jindal, I’d like to switch topic on, just a moment, to pure politics.
HH: On yesterday’s show, Governor Romney was kind enough to show up, and sort of cracked the door open to whether or not he might get back in for a third run for the presidential nomination. What’s your reaction to that?
BJ: A couple of things. One, I don’t think I’m alone, and I think more and more American people are wishing he had won in 2012. I think a lot of people are regretting the fact that President has gotten a second term. They get worse and worse every day. I think Mitt said it best, Governor Romney said it best when he remarked on another occasion that this president was even worse that he had feared and expected. Look, I think the more people who run for office, the better. I think it’s healthy to have that debate and open contest. I don’t think the Republican Party should go back to the days where we just took turns and it was whoever was next in line. I think an open, healthy contest is good for the party, good for the country. I think we’re stronger with more voices in the debate, and with contested primaries. So look, again, I wish he were the president right now. We’d be in a much better place – economically, with foreign policy, and I think the polls show a majority of the American people agree with me. A lot of those folks, I voted for Governor Romney. A lot of people that didn’t, I think, are regretting that right now.
HH: It is widely believed that you will run for president in 2016. I know you haven’t made a formal decision. When do you have to make that decision by?
BJ: Well look, we’re thinking about it, we’re praying about it. It certainly is not going to happen any time before November. We’re focused right now on winning a bunch of races. I’d like to see us win the Senate, keep the House. We’ve got 36 governor races. So I think realistically, you’re looking at, for me personally, we’re thinking and praying about it sometime after the holidays. And I imagine that a lot of folks who are thinking about it probably are on a similar timeline. For now, we need to focus on winning in November. One of the things, whoever ends up running, I think what I hear across this country is people are ready for a big change, not an incremental change. I think there is frustration both in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. There’s a lot of frustration with Republican insiders that tell us, well look, you just can’t repeal Obamacare, you can’t balance the budget, you can’t cut spending, you can’t grow the economy. I think folks in the rest of the country are tired from hearing those in D.C. say you can’t do this, you can’t do that. They’re ready for big changes. They’re ready to get this country back on the right track. So I think that there’s a real hunger for a course correction, a real takeover in D.C., not just incremental change.
HH: So Bobby Jindal, if you do run, and you decide in Late December or early January, and I hear you saying that’s your deadline, correct me if I’m wrong, what’s going to be the centerpiece? What’s the biggest achievement of Bobby Jindal that he points to and says I’m qualified to be president?
BJ: Well Hugh, a couple of things. One, when I say after the holidays, I’m thinking more likely sometime next calendar year, so certainly not December. It may not even be as early as January. So it’s sometime early next year. Secondly, look, we’ve got a great track record in Louisiana as governor. I’ve actually, unlike the president, I’ve actually run something, both not only as governor, but previously to that. We can show that we’ve turned around our economy. We’ve showed that we cut our state budget 26%. We have cut taxes. We’ve not raised taxes. We cut 28,000 state government jobs, a booming private sector economy, more people working than ever before, and an economy that’s grown twice as fast as the national economy. But I don’t think elections are simply about what we have done or where we have been before. Certainly, I want to see a candidate with executive experience who’s run something, unlike the President. I think the campaign will be asked much, though, about a vision for where does our country go from here. And two things – one, we have got to restore the American dream so that people are confident their kids can work hard, follow the rules, get into the middle class. They’re losing that hope. You know, the President keeps telling us the answer is more government spending, more government intrusion. We know that doesn’t work. We need to show people that our policies do work. We have some specific ideas. We can’t just be against things. We have to be for things. But then secondly, increasingly, and I think the election will primarily be about domestic policy and the economy, but increasingly, we’re seeing this administration’s incompetence in foreign policy affect the American people. I think more and more Americans are longing for the day when America spoke authoritatively, and where America was a consistent ally to Israel and others, and our enemies feared and respected us. And that’s just no longer the case around the world.
HH: Now four years ago in the primaries, you supported Rick Perry, and then you got, of course, behind Mitt Romney. Would their decision, either the Perry decision to run or not run, or the Romney decision to run or not run, affect the Jindal decision?
BJ: No, look, I will make that decision on a couple of criteria. When I ran for governor, it really was, it would be the same kind of thought process, and obviously, a much more significant decision. Number one, do I have something unique to add to the debate? Do I think I can make a positive difference for my country? Is this something I feel like I should be doing after prayerful consideration? I’d love to see as many people that are thinking about it as possible and that want to do it, offer themselves to run. I think again, our party should have, I think our party’s got a deep bench, and so I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t stay out of the race simply because I had friends running. I imagine that regardless of what decision I make, I will have multiple friends running. I think that’s a good thing. We’ve got some great governors. I am biased towards governors. I will tell you that, and I’ve been saying that, I said that in ’12 and I said that in ’08, I like governors. I think they’ve got proven experience with balanced budgets. They’ve made executive decisions. So I’d certainly look for our ranks, and we’ve got some great, great leaders across the country, conservative Republicans, and I hope a bunch of them run. I think it would be good to have too many good choices rather than having to pick the least bad candidate. And sometimes, we’ve had elections where you had to do that. I think this election, we have the blessing that in the Republican Party, we’ve got a great bench.
HH: Two last questions. Reince Priebus instituted a number of reforms – early convention, compacted primary schedule, rules about delegates. But the most important one is eight to twelve debates max, with a bunch of moderators who aren’t all from central casting liberal media, including yours truly, me and other people, are going to be in that mix. What do you make of the debate reform? Will you abide by it if that’s put in place and stick to only those RNC-sanctioned debates?
BJ: Well, a couple of things. One, I think Reince has certainly done some great work for the party, and I thank him for his efforts. When it comes to the debate rules, I haven’t looked carefully. I’m a big believer that I do think it’s good that we’re getting more reasonable moderators. I have not understood historically why we’ve allowed the left to set the rules for our debate to then try to trap us with gotcha-like questions, or try to get us to attack unnecessarily each other. I don’t think that’s productive. I think more debates are a good thing for voters, and for candidates to see where the candidates stand. But I’ll look at the rules. If I decide to run, I’ll look carefully at the rules. I have to be honest with you. I haven’t paid attention to all the different changes they’ve made. But overall, I certainly applaud Reince. I know he’s worked hard to build the party in advance of the ’14 and the ’16 elections. And that is sometimes thankless work, and I appreciate what he’s doing.
HH: Last question, Bobby Jindal, concerns a deep divide in the Republican Party. I don’t use the term isolationist or neo-isolationism, because it’s pejorative. But there is a strain in the party now, and it’s really captained by Senator Rand Paul, that I will call non-interventionist. And he’s quite vocal about it, was on Meet The Press this past weekend. What do you think about the non-interventionist camp and its if not growing numbers, its growing visibility and volume?
BJ: Look, I absolutely think that there’s a healthy skepticism not only within our party, within the country about the fact that America cannot be the policemen of the world. We cannot be engaged in nation building. Our first impulse should not be to send troops to every single hot spot around the world. But I would say this. There are real threats to American interests and security and American lives. It would be irresponsible, in my view, for example to allow ISIS to grow and gather strength and land and materials and weapons. They do pose a direct threat to our interests and our values, and that was true ever before this barbaric beheading of the reporter. The reality is this President made such a mess of our foreign policy, the irony is the stronger that America is, the more predictable we are, the less likely we have to deploy our troops. But on the other hand, our allies need to know that we are there for them. Israel needs to know that we don’t view the conflict as one between two moral equivalents. We understand they’re fighting the terrorist group Hamas, and it’s a fight for their survival, the right to exist and to live peacefully. We understand that for example, allies not only like Israel, but the UAE, the Egyptians and others, the Saudis, no longer consistently look to the United States for leadership, and that’s a dangerous, that’s a dangerous threat to the world. Here’s the biggest foreign policy challenge, bigger than the other ones that I’ve just articulated that I think faces this administration and the next administration. The American president, the American government, cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear-equipped regime. They cannot be allowed to develop and possess nuclear weapons. That is an existential threat not only for Israel, but for the peaceful, civilized world. And I fear this President’s weakness on foreign policy is sending the wrong signal. So instead of defining myself in front of what other people believe, I would just say that I believe in a strong, robust American military. But I don’t believe we should be dispatching troops at the drop of a hat. Reagan actually said, President Reagan actually said a strong military actually results in fewer deployments. People respected, feared and knew what President Reagan stood for. There was a reason, look, the reality is if we have a Reagan-like president in the White House, there’s not a chance in the world that Putin would be in Crimea or causing trouble in Ukraine. There’s a reason there’s so much instability. There’s a reason there’s not one part of the world that’s gotten better either under President Obama’s leadership or former Secretary Clinton’s leadership. And I think you see this, this is a President who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. He looks at multilateralism as a goal.
HH: This is a corollary, but should be cutting and running in Afghanistan now? The President doubled down on getting out just yesterday.
BJ: Look, I think we need to be listening to our military commanders. One of the mistakes they made in Iraq was they did what was politically expedient for the President. I think in Afghanistan, we don’t want to risk all the loss of treasure and blood. We don’t want that to be in vain. I think he needs to listen to his military commanders. And the reality is that this is a president that makes political decisions, and it’s got consequences. And so the politically popular short term thing to say is absolutely, we want every troop out tomorrow. Politically, that’s very, very popular. He needs to consult with his military commanders, and do what’s right now only for Afghanistan, for that region, because the reality is if you create chaos there, if we allow that to become a hotbed for terrorism, we’ll pay the price. And we saw that with Osama bin Laden. We’re seeing that with ISIS. We cannot allow these Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups to take route, to have a home base. Now I’m not saying that it’s our responsibility to build Western-style democracies in every country in the world. We’ve, our ultimate interest there is to deny the terrorists, the Islamic fundamentalist groups, a home base from which to attack American interests, American values, and the American people.
HH: Governor Bobby Jindal, always a pleasure to speak with you, talk to you again soon, and look forward to reading the complaint you filed today.
BJ: Hugh, great to be with you. Thank you very much for having me.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.