Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2000 / 17 Tishrei, 5761

George Will

George Will
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Fighting against fairness -- Proponents of the most purely reactionary cause in contemporary politics--resistance to school choice, particularly for poor children poorly served by inner-city schools--are waging a ferocious rear-guard fight against fairness. Consider recent developments in Florida and California.

A three-judge Florida appeals court panel unanimously reversed a trial court ruling that held that the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program violated the state's constitution. The trial court can be consoled by the fact that its decision did not result from hard work--much of it was lifted almost verbatim from a proposed opinion submitted by teachers' unions.

They argued, audaciously, that the program, which gives students in failing schools scholarships for tuition at better-performing public or private schools, violates the constitution's requirement that the state provide "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools." The appeals court, blocking this attempt to turn a guarantee of quality education into an instrument impeding that guarantee, said, in effect, nice try--but, seriously, Florida's constitution "does not unalterably hitch the requirement to make adequate provision for education to a single, specified engine, that being the public school system." The trial court erroneously decided that the inclusion of one thing (public schools) implies the exclusion of other things (private schools).

Next month Californians will vote on Proposition 38, under which any parent can enroll a child at an eligible voucher-redeeming private school, which will receive a $4,000 check payable to the parent, who will endorse it to the school. Well-funded opponents of Proposition 38--recently the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union, imposed a surcharge on members' dues to fund opposition to vouchers--are broadcasting an ad that says the proposition would give public funds to private schools "with no accountability on how they spend it or even what they teach."

Proponents of Proposition 38 want TV stations to stop airing the ad because it is patently false. Leave aside the fact that private schools are accountable to poor parents, empowered by vouchers to be shoppers, whereas public schools, with their captive populations, are not. But note this: Proposition 38 would change nothing in the law, which makes the courses-of-study requirements for California's public and private schools identical. Furthermore, many nonacademic (administrative) state regulations govern private schools.

True, Proposition 38 would leave private schools only under regulations existing before Jan. 1, 1999. This is not an attempt to evade accountability requirements, which would remain substantial. Rather, it is simple self-defense: The public school lobby, in its incessant skirmishing, wants to multiply regulations pertaining to private schools for two reasons: to make the regulatory burden so onerous that schools cannot afford to accept vouchers, and to produce, with religious schools, the "excessive entanglement" with government that the Supreme Court considers unconstitutional.

Opponents of Proposition 38 are claiming that this statement in a proponents' ad is false: "Schools are so bad, 4 in 10 L.A. teachers send their kids to private schools." The opponents claim only 12 percent of Los Angeles public school teachers with school-age children send their children to private schools. But according to proponents, this figure is an extrapolation from a survey that sampled only 300 teachers, the methodology of the survey is unclear and the survey was paid for by the California Teachers Association--the teachers' union. The proponents' figure of four in 10 is from Census data.

So goes the guerrilla war, coast to coast, against extending to the poor the middle-class prerogative of choice. Imagine if the intellectual ingenuity invested in fighting the school choice threat to the public education lobby were invested in improving the educational product delivered to the inner-city students who most need choice. That is not the lobby's priority.

In the July 1999 Atlantic Monthly, writer Matthew Miller recounted a conversation with Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association. Previously, Lamar Alexander, former secretary of education, had told Miller that "to expose the hypocrisy of the unions" he would like to challenge them to support much higher per-pupil spending in a few cities, but delivered through vouchers. Alexander guessed that if he told the NEA "that we'd double it in the five largest cities, they wouldn't take it." He guessed right.

Miller proposed to Chase "a handful of cities, higher spending, but only through vouchers." Miller began this exchange:

"Is there any circumstance under which that would be something that. . ."


". . . you guys could live with? Why?"


"Double school spending . . ."


". . . in inner cities?"


"Triple it . . ."


Remember that exchange when teachers' unions say they oppose vouchers because they siphon resources away from needy children.

Comment on JWR contributor George Will's column by clicking here.


10/11/00: A feast of retreats
10/10/00: .. And what's gotten into the Danes?
10/05/00: The Agony of Debate
10/02/00: Senate Canvas
09/28/00: Milosevic: Not Another Saddam
09/25/00: Blaming the Voters
09/22/00: Saying No to the Euro
09/18/00: Farewell, Mr. Moynihan
09/14/00: When 'Choice' Rules
09/12/00: Colombia Illusions
09/08/00: Will He Spend It All?
09/04/00: Back in the U.S.S.R.
08/31/00: Stonewalling School Reform
08/28/00: Uphill for a California Republican
08/24/00: Sauerkraut Ice Cream
08/21/00: The Partial-Birth Censors
08/18/00: A Party to Prosperity
08/14/00: The National Scold on the Stump
08/10/00: The Thinking Person's Choice
08/07/00: The GOP of Powell And Rice
08/03/00: Panic in the Gore Camp
07/27/00: . . . Both Radical and Reassuring
07/06/00: Harry Potter: A Wizard's Return
07/03/00: Recalling the Revolution
06/29/00: An Act of Judicial Infamy
06/26/00: Life, Liberty and ... the Pursuit of Foxes
06/21/00: Fumble on Prayer
06/19/00: The unified field theory of culture
06/15/00: Schools Beset by Lawyers And Shrinks
06/12/00: Missile Defense Charade
06/07/00: The Grandparent Dissent
06/05/00: Liberal Condescension
06/01/00: Great Awakenings
05/30/00: Suddenly Social Security
05/25/00: Forget Values, Let's Talk Virtues
05/22/00: AlGore the Hysteric
05/15/00: Majestic Avenue
05/11/00: Just How Irrational Is the Exuberance?
05/08/00: Home-Run Glut
05/04/00: A Lesson Plan for Gore
05/01/00: The Hijacking of the Primaries
04/28/00: The Raid in Little Havana
04/24/00: Tinkering Again
04/17/00: A Judgment Against Hate
04/13/00: Tech- Stock Joy Ride
04/10/00: What the bobos are buying
04/06/00: A must-read horror book
04/03/00: 'Improving' the Bill of Rights
03/30/00: Sleaze, The Sequel
03/27/00: How new 'rights' will destroy freedom
03/23/00: Death and the Liveliest Writing
03/20/00: Powell is Dubyah's best bet
03/16/00: Free to Be Politically Intense
03/13/00: Runnin', Gunnin' and Gambling
03/09/00: And Now Back to Republican Business
03/06/00: As the Clock Runs Out on Bradley
03/02/00: Island of Equal Protection
02/28/00: . . . The Right Response
02/24/00: Federal Swelling
02/22/00: Greenspan Tweaks
02/17/00: Crucial Carolina (and Montana and . . .)
02/10/00: McCain's Distortions
02/10/00: The Disciplining of Austria
02/07/00: Free to Speak, Free to Give
02/02/00: Conservatives in a Changing Market
01/31/00: America's true unity day
01/27/00: For the Voter Who Can't Be Bothered
01/25/00: The FBI and the golden age of child pornography
01/20/00: Scruples and Science
01/18/00: Bradley: Better for What Ails Us
01/13/00: O'Brian Rules the Waves
01/10/00: Patron of the boom
01/06/00: In Cactus Jack's Footsteps
01/03/00: The long year
12/31/99: A Stark Perspective On a Radical Century
12/20/99: Soldiers' Snapshots of the Hell They Created
12/16/99: Star-Crossed Banner
12/13/99: Hubert Humphrey Wannabe
12/09/99: Stupidity in Seattle
12/06/99: Bradley's most important vote
12/03/99: Boys will be boys --- or you can always drug 'em
12/01/99: Confidence in the Gore Camp
11/29/99: Busing's End
11/22/99: When We Enjoyed Politics
11/18/99: Ever the Global Gloomster
11/15/99: The Politics of Sanctimony
11/10/99: Risks of Restraining
11/08/99: Willie Brown Besieged
11/04/99: One-House Town
11/01/99: Crack and Cant
10/28/99: Tax Break for the Yachting Class
10/25/99: Ready for The Big Leagues?
10/21/99: Where honor and responsibility still exist
10/18/99: Is Free Speech Only for the Media?
10/14/99: A Beguiling Amateur
10/11/99: Money in Politics: Where's the Problem?
10/08/99: Soft Thinking On Soft Money

© 2000, Washington Post Writer's Group