Jewish World Review May 4, 1999 /18 Iyar 5759
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The public education system as we have known it for a century has dismantled itself. More than old buildings are falling down. So is the quality of education. It is especially bad for minority children whose interests Russell is supposed to be advancing. Minority parents favor school choice by a wide margin. It's time to shake up the system by ending the monopoly. We should be more concerned about what the children are getting than benefits flowing toward the teachers unions and the rest of the education establishment.
The usual suspects will fight this in court, but they are swimming against a strong tide.
It is unfair and immoral to force people to keep their children mired in public schools that fail to teach them the basic educational and moral skills they need to make a decent living and a satisfying life. The National Education Association, which regularly passes pro-choice resolutions on abortion, vehemently opposes choice on education for those fortunate enough to have been born. Why is choice sacrosanct when it comes to life and death, but unacceptable when it comes to education? It's because to allow parents to choose would erode the political power now enjoyed by the NEA and the rest of the education establishment that has put itself ahead of the best interests of parents and children in a shameless pursuit of self-preservation, not child education.
The Supreme Court has indicated it is not hostile to the school-choice concept. Last year, it voted 8-1 to reject a challenge to Milwaukee's school-choice program. Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., have passed charter school legislation.
In the most exciting development of all, entrepreneurs Ted Forstmann and John Walton have begun a nationwide scholarship program designed to free inner-city minority youth from dead-end public schools. Forty cities are involved, with more sure to come. The response has been tremendous, quieting some politicians who have claimed that the poor don't want vouchers or scholarships.
Early studies indicate positive achievement when students and parents get to choose. A study of New York's School Choice Scholarship Foundation by Harvard University and Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., found that 4th- and 5th-grade students in the program scored 4 percentile points higher than a control group in reading and 6 points higher in math.
A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll last year found 56 percent of parents with children in public schools support school choice. The numbers are higher in many minority communities, such as the nation's capital, where a Washington Post survey discovered that 65 percent of African-Americans with incomes under $50,000 favor using federal dollars to send children to private or religious schools.
New York pastor and former Democratic Congressman Floyd Flake has said:"I'm not against public schools. I am against public schools where educational mediocrity goes unchallenged.'' That's the point.
Gov. Jeb Bush is opening previously locked doors to opportunity and hope. If the new law
survives court challenges, there will be no stopping school choice. Children will initially
benefit, but in the long run so will teachers and administrators because the system will be
competitive and will foster improvement. If it doesn't, such schools, like any business, would
be forced to close. Either way, children, parents and the nation win. Only the political power
brokers lose. And that's not bad,
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