Saturday, November 16, 2013

Education is critical! Fight back against the right wing attack!

The "National School Choice Week" is January 16 to February 1, 2014.  

Sounds good, right?  I mean, "choice" is always good, and is at the basis of our personal freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution, right?


Well, that's the right wing's theme when it comes to education, anyway.  (Don't even think that word when talking about abortion, or women's health care, though, just sayin’!)  That’s what they want you to think - that the most important thing about education is your right to choose the school your kids go to.

The problem is, too many of even the most evangelical folks choose public education.  Why?  Cost.  Public education is free, supported by our taxes.  Why is that a problem for the right wing?  Because for every child who goes to public school, that represents thousands of dollars that does NOT get spent at sectarian, religious institutions!  (Not to mention the real science based education they often get instead of bible based mythology.)

That is why Republicans support school vouchers, under the rubric of “school choice”.  It is a way of taking public education dollars and funneling them into those sectarian, religious schools that most evangelicals cannot afford.

Enter "National School Choice Week”.  Their website is quite neutral sounding, and seems very benign.  They claim to be nonpartisan and politically neutral.  But in their handbook, listen to this:

 Open enrollment policies provide increased education options within traditional public schooling. Open enrollment allows parents to select the best public schools for their children, regardless of where those schools are located. Depending on the state or local open enrollment policy, this means that parents can choose any public school within a district (intra-district school choice), or, in some cases, outside of their home district (inter-district school choice).

Notice the language used here.  “…regardless of where those schools are located.”  This is traditional language used by parents who want to take their kids away from a local school filled with minorities and send them to a school across town where the percentages of white kids is higher.

School vouchers, also touted by these folks, takes the concept of choice one step further.  The idea is that parents should have the freedom to not only choose an alternative school for their kids, but take that public education money with them.  A voucher takes that money away from the local school their kids would have attended and gives it to the private institution they end up sending their kids to.

Which defunds that public school.  This is another tactic used by the right wing - defund public education as much as possible, under the excuse that the State is spending too much on schools and cannot afford the expense.   When the schools then begin to fail, criticize them, attack them and claim that public education is inefficient, ineffective and that private schools are better, cheaper and affords parents the choice public schools do not.

Obviously, this completely ignores the fact that a majority of parents, of whatever racial background, cannot afford private schools.  Enter the voucher program, which fortunately, is even more underfunded than the schools are, effectively limiting the vouchers to mostly white middle class parents sending their kids to religious evangelical schools!

Enter Sarah Jones, at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  She has written an excellent critique of the “National School Choice Week” in the form of an open letter, written by Steve Nelson of Manhattan’s prestigious Calhoun School.

She quotes him at one point:

“You say you hope ‘schools that participate find the Week to be an enjoyable, rewarding and celebratory time.’ Is that really what you hope?” he wrote.

“Or do you hope that your work, funded by the most conservative, anti-union, anti-progressive and anti-teacher forces in America, will accelerate the demise of public education in America?”
She goes on to say:

As Nelson notes in his letter, National School Choice Week is funded by an array of conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers and FreedomWorks, a Tea Party outfit that enjoys the support of former Fox News bloviator Glenn Beck.

Not exactly “non-partisan”, is it?

Education is the most important way we can ensure that the United States remains a First World country.  Without a good, effective educational system, our traditionally high standard of living will not be possible moving into the future.

Steve Jobs once famously told President Obama that one of the reasons companies are moving jobs overseas is that the science-educated workers companies need for high tech manufacturing are not as available in the US as they are in other countries.

Let’s fight the right wing attack on US public education, shall we?

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