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12.9.07

Pledges show Blueprint's policy impact likely small

Blueprint Louisiana made a big splash in its stumping for a reform political agenda in the state. After revelation of which fall election candidates have signed on to support it, it appears that the group itself didn’t have the credible impact for which it may have hoped.

The organization attracted some funding and got together reform-minded individuals with public opinion data to formulate an agenda for change in the state. Amid much publicity, they produced a comprehensive action plan and, for the most part, one on the mark – with a single exception, it does make for a true reform platform that will bring positive change to the state.

That one slip, however, may have cost the endorsement of the effort by gubernatorial candidate Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal. As part of its education reforms, the group touts expanding the “voluntary, high-quality pre-kindergarten [program limited to certain parishes] to provide access to all four-year-olds in the state. In close partnership with Head Start and the child care sector ….” (emphasis mine). Unfortunately, that is a guarantee for a waste of money the group otherwise seems to oppose.

Research shows the only beneficial present effects pre-K education has is when it is treated as if it were another grade of school, with bachelor-degreed teachers specializing in that area. By contrast, Head Start and other forms of pre-K end up having little in the way of lasting results or even in the present. (Oddly, in using information from a laudatory report of high-quality pre-K programs, the Blueprint LA people seemed to miss this distinction.) Therefore the Blueprint LA estimate to implement such a program, about $90 million, seems low, if that’s what they mean at all.

The Jindal campaign only states that Jindal wanted to focus on his own plans and not anybody else’s, but reviewing the plan and Jindal’s ideas (as they are expressed in some detail on his campaign web site, even if all have not been unveiled yet) show extremely compatible ideas, so one might wonder if Blueprint LA hadn’t whiffed on this one whether Jindal might have gone with them. Of course, being such a prohibitive favorite Jindal sees no need to tie himself to a group which will increase his room to maneuver if he wins.

Regrettably for the group, this means somewhat of a slide to irrelevancy since Jindal will attract at least half the voters on Oct. 20 – and it also struck out with two other major contenders, but for the simple reason that neither are genuine reformers. Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso does have some reform credentials, but in his refusal to put health care quality and taxpayer resources ahead of special interests in regards to his continued support of the state’s underperforming hospital-centric indigent care system negates other more salutary issue preferences of his. And Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is not a reformer, period, preferring the old ways of the state doing business that got it into trouble in the first place.

Among these three, they will collect about 90 percent of the vote in the governor’s race, meaning only about 10 percent of the total electorate will vote for candidate’s who endorse officially the Blueprint LA agenda – not the most ringing endorsement of the group’s effectiveness. However, the group did better in collecting pledges from legislative candidates. While many, including incumbents who will win reelection, did not sign up, many previous legislators and newcomers did.

However, even here the fidelity of these promises has to be questioned. For one example of several, concerning the indigent health care spending issue, a number of signers voted for SCR 76 last legislative session which endorsed spending a wastefully-large sum of money on a new charity hospital in New Orleans – a direct contradiction to the group’s platform. By way of illustration – John Alario and Billy Montgomery (voters favoring SCR 76), are you kidding to ever think these good old boys honestly support a reform agenda?

Either these legislators wanting to continue their careers suddenly have seen the light, or they are manipulating the group to get its assistance during their campaigns, rendering support of its reform agenda hollow. Hopefully, the group will continue past the election and publicize any “backsliders” that do get elected.

This is not to say that the group’s efforts have been in vain for any effort to focus on needed changes in the state is good. But with major gubernatorial candidates ignoring it and many legislative candidates apparently paying it lip service for political gain with no serious intent to carry out the entirety of its package, whether its own impact on policy in the state is more than minor is questionable.

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