In the public policy process, success requires victory in the campaign of ideas. Those who prevail utilize a range of techniques to convince others that they are right. Our job is to help them identify and leverage the tools needed to win.Tools, indeed. Gene Hickok is one of those tools with the tools today, now using his extensive connnections and greased palms in a national campaign to replace the public schools with vouchers and a new type of school company that remains funded by tax dollars while being run by corporations who earn a profit for their stockholders. In an op-ed in the Moonie Washington Times, Hickok and fellow Dutkoian, Gary Andres, use Hurricane Katrina (yes, you heard that right) to make the case for vouchers and corporate welfare schools as a way to help the impoverished parents and children of New Orleans. Hurricanes are not all bad when there is opportunity to make a buck, or at least a few hundred million of them:
. . . . Congress should also conduct hearings to explore other obstacles New Orleans and other areas rebuilding face [sic]. Lawmakers should shine a bright light on what works and what doesn't, and remove ramparts to reform.
Education in this country is at a crossroads. There is great and important work to be done. America is falling behind other nations, and our students and our country will pay a terrible price for this. Important reforms, such as President Bush's No Child Left Behind, have made somewhat of a difference; primarily by focusing our attention on results and awakening Americans to just how bad things are. But it will take bold, creative and imaginative thinking to produce change. And it will require an opportunity that allows us to get beyond tinkering with the status quo if we are ever to going to provide America's children with the education they deserve and need.
Those of us who cleaned chalkboards know how hard it is to wipe the slate clean. New Orleans has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do just that for its kids. The Big Easy can show the way to other big cities facing hard choices.
Today the New York Times ran a story on the fading hopes that the aftermath of Katrina might create a new sense of civic purpose to finally focus on poverty as the root problem of so many other problems, including educational disadvantage and differences in achievement. Hickok's piece above makes it clear that there is no disaster that will get in the way of the ideological steamroller that the neo-cons have set in motion. Every reality, regardless of its tragic proportions, will be converted to serve the causes of corporate socialism and crony politics in the multitude of separate, yet equally disgusting, manifestations that we have now come to expect from the clear and unapolegetic exercise of unrestrained greed.
Robert Greenstein summed it well in the NY Times piece:
We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening.