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Jewish World Review August 31, 1999 /19 Elul, 5759

Cal Thomas

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Let those Cleveland children go --
THE OPPORTUNITY for Republicans to break the back of liberalism, win more of the black vote and rescue part of an at-risk generation of minority children has dropped in their laps because of a ruling by a Clinton-appointed federal judge.

Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., who clearly lacks the wisdom of his ancient namesake, has blocked Cleveland, Ohio's school voucher program until he can determine its constitutionality, creating turmoil among 3,800 poor and minority pupils and their parents. No one knows whether most of the children will be forced to leave the private, mostly parochial schools some have been attending for four years and return to the failed and dangerous public schools, which for two straight years have not even measured up to minimum state standards.

Cleveland children have been treated like lab rats by liberals using city schools for social experiments. Incredibly, 35,000 students continue to cross the city daily on 570 buses in one failed experiment to conform to a court-ordered federal racial balancing edict. That order is set to expire next year, but it, along with declining academic standards, has led to an exodus of 80,000 students from the Cleveland system, which numbered 150,000 at the time of that order.

The latest ruling is an invitation for Republicans to invade Cleveland and play Moses to the judge's pharoah. Texas Gov. George W. Bush labeled the decision "judicial overreach with serious casualties,'' adding, "Nowhere in the American Constitution does it say that American parents should not be able to choose where to send their children to school.'' Bush said that since Ohio decided to give Cleveland parents a choice of where to spend their education dollars, "that decision should be left to parents, not federal judges.''

That is precisely the type of rhetoric that grabs people's attention and focuses an issue. Should poor people have the same basic rights as the rich or not? Republican Bush says yes. Liberal Democrats, who are prisoners of the education lobby, say no.

Many of Cleveland's poor, mostly black, parents, want their children in private schools, but cannot afford to send them there. They see the difference made in their children's intellectual, moral and social development when they switch to private schools. They view this opportunity as the only real hope for their kids to break out of a cycle of poverty and dependency.

Most white liberals who support choice on abortion, oppose education choice for parents of children fortunate enough to have been born. Surveys show a growing number of public school teachers have so little faith in the very schools in which they teach that they are sending their own children to private, often parochial schools. What do they know that the elites don't want the rest of us to find out? Who do liberals arrogantly claim they, more than parents, know what's best for someone else's kids? Shouldn't the goal of education be results and "satisfied customers'' rather than political power and satisfied politicians?

The humanist left knows the only way it can create substantial numbers of new ideological and social robots eager to follow in their failed footsteps is to imprison substantial numbers of children in government schools where they are force-fed liberal ideology and lied to about sex, about history and about a whole lot of other things at taxpayers' expense.

Most poor people want their kids out of failed schools. When venture capitalists like Theodore Forstmann and Wal-Mart's John Walton over assistance through their privately funded Children's Scholarship Fund, the poor jump for this escape hatch for their children. In Baltimore, 40 percent of eligible families applied for the private vouchers. Elsewhere, there are waiting lists.

Republicans have a unique opportunity not only to make political capital, but to invest in young lives whose potential for good can far outweigh the potential for bad that would result from their forced return to the Cleveland public school system.

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