Thursday, November 1, 2007

There's nothing progressive about blocking vouchers

The following piece appeared in Daily Herald and a number of other newspapers. Our favorite line " What will defenders of that idea -- former liberals, now progressives -- call themselves next? Surely not "pro-choice."

This is another great piece how teachers' unions put their greed above what is best for America's children.

There's nothing progressive about blocking vouchers
By George Will | Columnist
Published: 11/1/2007 12:27 AM
In today's political taxonomy, "progressives" are rebranded liberals dodging the damage they did to their old label. Perhaps their most injurious idea -- injurious to themselves and public schools -- was the forced busing of (mostly other peoples') children to engineer "racial balance" in public schools. Soon, liberals will need a third label if people notice what "progressives" are up to in Utah.

There, teachers unions are waging an expensive campaign to overturn the right of parents to choose among competing schools, public and private, for the best education for their children. Utahans next week will decide by referendum whether to retain or jettison the nation's broadest school choice program. Passed last February, the Parent Choice in Education Act would make a voucher available to any public school child who transfers to a private school, and to current private school children from low-income families. Opponents of school choice rushed to force a referendum on the new law, which is suspended pending the vote.

The vouchers would vary in value from $500 to $3,000, depending on household income. The teachers unions' usual argument against school choice programs is that they drain money from public education. But the vouchers are funded by general revenues, not the two sources of public school funds, which are local property taxes and the Uniform School Fund. And every Utah voucher increases funds available for public education. Here is how:

Utah spends more than $7,500 per public school pupil ($3,000 more than the average private school tuition). The average voucher will be for less than $2,000. So every voucher used -- by parents willing to receive $2,000 rather than $7,500 of government support for educating their child -- will save Utah taxpayers an average of $5,500. And because the vouchers are paid from general revenues, the departed pupil's $7,500 stays in the public school system.

Furthermore, booming Utah, which has about 540,000 public school pupils and the nation's largest class sizes, expects to have at least 150,000 more than that a decade from now. By empowering parents to choose private alternatives, the voucher program will save Utah taxpayers millions of dollars in school construction expenses.

Opponents argue that it will produce less racially and socially diverse schools. But because students are assigned to public schools based on where they live, and because residential patterns reflect income, most of Utah's public schools are either mostly wealthy and white or mostly nonwealthy and nonwhite. Utah's Office of Education reports that the state's private schools -- which are operating one-third below full enrollment -- have a higher percentage of nonwhites than do public schools.

Public filings showed that by September the National Education Association, the megalobbyist for the public education near-monopoly, had already spent $1.5 million to support repeal of the voucher program. Intellectually bankrupt but flush with cash, teachers unions continue to push threadbare arguments, undeterred by the fact that Utah's vouchers will increase per-pupil spending and lower class sizes in public schools. Why the perverse perseverance? Fear of competition and desire for the maximum number of dues-paying public school teachers.

Utah is among the most supportive states regarding public education: It has the fifth-highest proportion of K through 12 students in public schools. Nevertheless, Utah voters can strike a blow against the idea that education should remain the most important sector of American life shielded from the improving force of competition. What will defenders of that idea -- former liberals, now progressives -- call themselves next? Surely not "pro-choice."

© 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

Quote of the Day

"Parents should be empowered to take responsibility for their child’s education because parents understand their children better than government bureaucrats do." Mayor Giuliani’s Remarks At The Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, Washington, D.C., 10/20/07

Monday, October 29, 2007

Origins & History of American Compulsory Schooling - An Interview with John Taylor Gatto

After nearly 30 years in the public schools, John Taylor Gatto has quit his job as a schoolteacher to become one of the country's most articulate critics of American education. The author of Dumbing Us Down currently lives in New York City, where he is working on a book about the history of compulsory education called The Empty Child.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with John Taylor Gatto. To read the whole interview go to the Flatland Books website.

Martin: In Dumbing Us Down, you speak of education as almost mind control and the conscious effort to keep people stupid.