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Landrieu reminds of her vulnerability on education issue

Some Shreveport Times journalists got a reminder of Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s hypocrisy on education in a recent meeting with her as she cruised through the state’s Gannett affiliates, ammunition that, in particular, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal might find useful should he determine her office suitable as the next act in his political career.

To the assembled scribes, Landrieu reiterated her criticism of Jindal’s backing of the new voucher scholarship program, where students of lower-income families from low performing schools are given an amount less than what the state pays public schools to educate them to attend any willing and eligible school of their choice, even if a non-public school. She said again that it was too big of a part of state education reform and not accountable enough.

But at both policy and personal levels, on this issue Landrieu speaks with forked tongue. When a Senate candidate in 1996, she then expressed unqualified support for the general idea that government should “Provide parents with vouchers to send their children to any publicly funded school,” according to Project VoteSmart’s National Political Awareness Test. But shortly after election, she apparently had repudiated this preference, for she opposed consistently legislation that eventually would bring such a program to the District of Columbia.

Even then, when that program, which now almost has been strangled by Democrats, became a reality, she hedged again, by co-sponsoring an amendment that would apply certain strictures to the program – including proposing an accountability program that looks close to the one Louisiana has adopted for its version. Not that Landrieu seemed to have had a problem with this plan – only months ago she had favorable words for the accountability measures taken by the state’s original voucher regime, isolated to Orleans Parish, which essentially were extended to the plan now covering the entire state. Yet she continues to criticize it these very similar accountability measures when writ large to the statewide implementation.

Regardless, more telling than her policy inconsistency is her following the familiar formula of the left in telling the world to do as she says, not as she does. By the time she was opposing the D.C. program she was sending her adopted son (to be followed by her adopted daughter) to private schools in Washington. Educated herself in private schools enabled by her family’s wealth, her considerable assets now allow her to do the same, yet if it comes to having government provide a chance for lower-income families to have their children escape inferior schools, she’d just as soon pull up the ladder.

Thus, in a contemplated 2014 Senate contest she has teed up for Jindal (or other opponents, but especially Jindal since he so openly advocated for the new program and his children have gone to public schools) a big, fat pitch for him to hit out of the park. He can point out her policy shifts on the issue, ask her to explain her opposition to the program he helped ushered in that doesn’t seem really different from what she set out as standards for one, and then query her why poorer families being disserved by public schools should not, as she has advocated, get the same chance to achieve as do wealthy families like hers.

Landrieu, a liberal in a conservative state, must walk a fine line to keep a majority voting for her. The inevitable double standards that ensue – not just on this issue alone – provide a fertile field for opponents to make sure this will be her last term.

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