Here in Pennsylvania, we like to think we’re better than states like Louisiana. Those folks used to have slaves, but our founder was a Quaker. They’re poor, but we’re rich. Their schools are infamously bad, but around here we’ve got districts like Garnet Valley (where I grew up), Cumberland Valley (which is much in the news here in the midstate), and North Allegheny (which I always hear about while traveling out west).
Here’s the rub, though: We’re fat, happy, and languishing while and Louisiana is turning itself around. Over the last twenty years, Pennsylvania ranks 41st in the nation in job growth, 46th in population growth, and 48th in personal income growth. Those are the kind of numbers you’d normally associate with…well, Louisiana! Meanwhile, as I’ve written before, the Pelican State has a governor, Bobby Jindal, who’s mustered a 70-percent approval rating and two-thirds election majority while aggressively cutting the state budget, privatizing services, and giving parents educational choices.
Now, Gov. Jindal is doubling down on his past success. He just proposed what the Wall Street Journal is calling “America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime—all in one legislative session.” And he understands that the way you respond to bogus charges is by speaking the truth loud and clear: When union bosses in his state attacked poor families, saying they can’t make good choices for their kids, he went on national television to defend them.
The lesson of Louisiana is clear: Boldness begets boldness and turns states around, whereas milquetoast satisfies no one and perpetuates mediocrity. The question is: Are Pennsylvania pols paying attention?