Left behind

Why the Right Hates Public Education is a concise view of how a lefty thinks righties see school choice. The Progressive writer thinks choice proponents are purely motivated by politics, with just a dash of economics. It’s all about destroying the teachers’ unions and weakening the Dems’ hold on inner-city blacks not about improving the quality of education.

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  1. The article is too pathetic to waste time tearing apart. The author either lives in an imaginary world or is so blinded by her ideology that she actually believes the venomous nonsense she is spouting.

  2. Just taking a look at your site for the first time (via Sand in the Gears) and it’s totally coincidental that I was blogging just yesterday on the topic of conservatives’ school choice motives being slimed, by TNR, no less.

    When a Democrat (Lieberman, in this instance) has positive things to say on school choice, his motives are pure, “neoliberal empiricism”. That’s as opposed to the “free-market theology” of the conservatives.

    To be spared the whole thing here’s the pertinent excerpt from the post:

    Here’s the paragraph on Lieberman’s anti-orthodox stance on school choice: (emphasis added)

    “Where Lieberman diverges most from his competitors on domestic policy is in his willingness to challenge entrenched party interest groups. Many liberal intellectuals privately fret about the teachers’ unions’ stranglehold on Democratic education policy. But Lieberman is one of the few national Democrats to challenge them. He supports experimenting with school vouchers, not because of free-market theology but because of neoliberal empiricism: He wants to see if they work. And his educational heresies extend beyond school choice. In 2000, he rankled Ted Kennedy and the teachers’ unions by endorsing tough new testing for schools, yet he also proposed generous funding increases to make those standards achievable. This was the Third Way at its best: government demanding accountability but providing real help.

    While implying they agree that “school choice” is an idea whose time has come, the editors feel that conservative motives as champions of school choice programs must be smeared as base “free-market theology”, (read: “worship of money”), while Lieberman’s motives are naturally more honorable. You see, he actually “wants to see if they work”.

    Why didn’t conservatives ever think of that? Let’s try them to see if they work, because the alternative is continued miserable failure for many. The whole notion of trying to do something to improve the education of American children had not occurred to conservatives, so busy were they conducting theological experiments in wealth creation on our kids. Off sarcasm.

    How incredibly insulting that is to the many thousands of parents, educators and yes, politicians of both parties, who have worked so hard for so long to provide some sound choices to low income parents trying desperately to rescue their kids from a public school system that has increasingly been failing them.

    Enjoyed it. I’ll stop again

  3. My favorite bullet point from the article is:

    Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party

    as if the Democrats own African American and Latino voters and that it would be sinister to compete for their votes by offering superior ideas.

  4. Stefan:
    I think the point is that Republicans are trying to ‘woo’ voters by offering seemingly good ideas about vouchers that are really a serious threat to the educational system and really do little to help educate the Blacks and Latinos (among other ethnic and racial groups).

    Here’s a good summary of some of the problems with vouchers. (Anti-Defamation League).

  5. John Thacker says:

    Not really a surprise the comments from The New Republic. They’ve always been open to thoughtful discussion and even agreeing with Republican ideas and policies; actual Republicans, OTOH, are invariably icky.

  6. It’s hard to go wrong discounting any essay containing the word “ilk”. Too bad she saved it for the last paragraph.

  7. PJ/Maryland says:

    Jeff, I followed your link to the ADL’s explanation of exactly how evil vouchers are. I particularly liked the page explaining that “Vouchers Are Not Universally Popular”. Good think our government never does anything unless it’s universally popular!

    And then there was this: Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of religious freedom in America, said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves… is sinful and tyrannical.”

    I guess the ADL will help me get my property taxes back, then, since I don’t agree with most of the eco-liberalism taught in local public schools.

  8. PJ/Maryland says:

    Getting back to Barbara Miner’s article, there seems to be a real gap in her logic. She lists, right up front, five reasons that “Republican strategists” want to move towards vouchers. But then she turns around and suggests that only the “bad” political reasons (D and E) count: “Occasionally, Republican strategists let the cat out of the bag and admit that vouchers–which divert public dollars to private schools–are about politics, not education.”

    Well, duh, maybe vouchers are about education and politics? Are Republicans supposed to ignore the beneficial side effects of removing some of the tax flow from the school bureaucracy’s clammy grasp?

    Looking at it from the other side, does anyone believe that Democrats keep opposing all voucher programs solely because they think they will lead to the collapse of democracy as we know it? Not one DLC member has thought how helpful it is to have the NEA and AFT solidly behind their party? (I won’t say “in lockstep,” but I’m thinking it pretty loudly.)

    Really, a pretty shallow article.

  9. Jeff:

    With all due respect to the ADL, vouchers do not violate the “Principal of the Separation of Church and State. There now have been several Federal and State Supreme Court decisions validating vouchers.

    The ADL is an an organization of politically liberal Jews. Abe Foxman’s response to any outbreak of anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party is to demand an apology from Republicans

  10. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to only choose the ADL as my source for anti-voucher information. However, there are numerous other sources of information (that have nothing to do with the separation of church and state). Here’s another source (The American Prospect) that looks at vouchers in a secular manner. The crux of the argument comes down to the following:

    But schools designed to accept voucher-students will inevitably be profit-making ventures. These voucher mills would be forced to put revenue drives and cost-cutting ahead of education, just like any other for-profit organization

    I’d read this too, it’s an interesting take on the vouchers problem

  11. PJ/Maryland says:

    Jeff, Kushner’s article in TAP shows a bland disregard for how the market works. (Kushner’s a “Columbia University senior majoring in ancient studies”, so I guess that’s not surprising.)

    Your quote is a bit ironic here, where the Baltimore school system is laying off people right and left to try to close a recently discovered $50+ million deficit. When you read something like “The school system also discovered recently that it did not budget to pay substitute teachers this year”, you have to wonder how a “voucher mill” could be worse.

    I guess the argument is something like “the public schools put education first”, and that’s why they’re constantly needing more money (or in Baltimore’s case, running out of it). But if the public schools were doing a good job in educating people, we wouldn’t be talking about charter schools and vouchers and home-schooling.

    I remember, years ago, that some of the firehouses in Brooklyn were going to be privatized. Community activists came out in force, claiming that a private firehouse would only provide 80% fire protection and 20% profit. It’d be more accurate to say the public firehouses provided 50% fire protection and 50% waste, while the private ones would provide 90% protection and 10% profit.

    The whole argument is that there is little incentive in the public sector to reduce waste. Over the years, this builds up to a formidable pile of administrators accomplishing little, ridiculous maintenance contracts, and teachers working without school supplies “because we have to cut back”.

    Part of the waste, too, is the reluctance to adopt new methods and better technology. A private school that figured out a way to educate more students with fewer teachers would have a gold mine, raises all around; a public school would have no incentive to do likewise, and plenty of reasons (including union contracts) not to.

  12. I think that elements of the right do hate public education. And as a lefty (sort of), I also think that that’s a good thing. I hate public education. It’s inefficient and unaccountable.

    But vouchers just shift the blame from a huge public institution to a bunch of small semi-public and private institutions. Sometimes they do a better job, sometimes a worse one. What’s needed isn’t a blame game that puts the public school example forth as Satan or God, but a real series of choices for public and private schools.

    Right now, the public schools are a one-size-fits-all hellhole for many students. For others, it’s a great place to learn. Private schools often have accountability issues, too. Like credit card companies, once you sign the contract you are pretty stuck (and the debt levels can be similar, too–and vouchers won’t necessarily change that). There are no easy answers here. I’ve read of suburban school districts putting up “no vacancy” signs at the prospect of “inner city” (the code term for poor Black and Latino students) transfers. There are bigger issues to tackle than merely allowing such things: someone must make them happen.

    And it won’t be a mass movement of poor students and their parents. The neighborhood school usually wins because it’s in the neighborhood.

    As a left/right issue, this is a sad one. As an issue of great importance, this is one that needs more than two possible solutions. Will politicians of any stripe ever figure this out? Probably not. The B.S. argument over whole language and phonics is nothing to the idiotic divide over this issue.

    As a pissed-off lefty with a home-schooled child and a child who has been to just about every kind of school possible, I see more than black and white when these issues are presented. Unfortunately, that keeps me from supporting either side’s position.

  13. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘for tactical reasons conservatives have wrapped vouchers in the mantle of concern for poor African Americans and Latinos.’

    The writer obviously discounts the fact that many people want to find a solution to a system that is an abject failure that they’re forced to pay for. My kids attend public schools in Boston and the school system is an utter failure and has contributed to enormous social problems in the city. My only opposition to the BTU is it’s committment to stopping any productive reform and putting teachers union politics ahead of improving the school system. If you wonder why I keep my kids in the public schools it’s partially because of a committment to the public schools but mainly because the school system has a weird lottery school assignment plan in which we won our first school choice. But hey, obviously that just makes me a closet Klan member.

  14. nobody important says:

    We really should start calling ‘public’ schools what they are: government schools. Unfree, coersive, undemocratic institutions whose lofty ideals did not survive the 19th century. Jack has it right: the first imperative of the government schools is jobs for teachers, followed by benefits for teachers, followed by working conditions for teachers, followed by tenure for teachers, followed by…