Jindal's education report is a balancing act between calling for higher standards and improved accountability, while limiting the role of the federal government to offer policies to solve the problem. Jindal argues that if parents have more choice in where to send their kids to school—be it local public schools, charter schools, or using vouchers for private or parochial education—the renewed competition will itself force public schools to do a better job. His report calls for less-regimented testing requirements, even as he supports stronger state accountability measures so parents can determine the best schools for their children.
"The federal government should absolutely not be offering incentives, mandates, or coercecing states to adopt a national curriculum—whether it's Common Core or the next iteration of it," Jindal said. "We don't think curriculum decisions should be made at the national level. I'm all for rigor, I'm all for standards, but ultimately, I trust parents. I trust choice and competition. I don't want a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach." To that end, Jindal said he favors rolling back the mandates in George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law.
If he runs for president, Jindal is expected to make education a central part of his message. In the report, he touts the success of the New Orleans school system as a model of his school-choice pitch. After Hurricane Katrina, the city's educational system was entirely revamped and turned over to the state-run Recovery School District. They allowed schools to be run independently; now more than 90 percent of students in the city attend charter schools. The results have been one of the country's biggest educational success stories—the graduation rates have skyrocketed and the city's passing rate on state tests now rival the statewide averages.
Many of Jindal's school-choice proposals are an extension of the New Orleans experience. He calls for expanding the number charter schools, urges states to remove the caps on the number of charter schools allowed, and argues that principals should play a more active role in their schools' direction than local school boards.
"Those on the left who believe in government power don't trust the American people. In terms of education, the best way to drive excellence is to trust the parents. Parents know their kids best, they want what's best for their children, and if you allow them to vote with their feet, they will then have the chance to give the best education for their kids. And we've seen that in New Orleans," Jindal said.
All told, Jindal's preferred policies are in line with what many leading educational reformers are arguing. He believes strongly that teacher quality is the strongest school-based factor in a student's education, and he believes talented teachers should be rewarded for their work. He rails against the seniority system that keeps the most veteran teachers protected from scrutiny. He is dismissive of requiring teachers to hold educational degrees, preferring recruits that have expertise in the areas they teach. And he is bullish about the role technology can play in improving educational outcomes. Indeed, most of these ideas are echoed by Jeb Bush, and other like-minded thinkers across the political spectrum.