"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Voucher Talk and Other Privatization Plans

Despite the undisguised hostility toward public schools at ED, and despite the offering of over $70,000,000 in discretionary funds by ED to seed school privatization ventures, many opponents of NCLB remain reluctant to admit the obvious: as more public schools are labeled failures as a result of an impossible performance demand that is emblematic of NCLB, the pressure to offer "competition" or "alternatives" or "tuition tax credits" (vouchers) will escalate among education industry supporters and proponents of tax-supported religious schools.

We can see this even now in red states such as South Carolina, where Republicans are planning to call for vouchers and the expansion of corporate welfare schools as part of the 2006 election year strategy. Here is part of an article appearing today at the TheState.com:

Several House members, including House Education Committee chairman Ronnie Townsend, R-Anderson, are working on a proposal that calls for some form of school choice.

School vouchers also are said to be on the table.

Education is expected to be a hot political issue in an election year. Gov. Mark Sanford, who is up for re-election in 2006, is expected to be in the thick of the fight.

“If we’re going to achieve the kind of transformative change needed to compete in today’s world,” Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said, “we need to provide more choices for parents and increase educational innovation through reforms like charter school expansion.”

Karen Floyd, the Republican candidate for state superintendent of education who has been endorsed by the governor, said, “Until we admit we’re on the wrong track, we’ll never have the courage to change a system that is clearly failing too many of our children.”

She declined to endorse any specific plan, although she said she is running on a platform that embraces the concept of choice.

South Carolinians for Responsible Government, the group that has led the push for Sanford’s tuition tax credit proposal, immediately pounced on the number of failing schools, saying it offered fodder for a real scrap next year.

“We’ve got to use that stuff to help make our point,” said Denver Merrill, spokesman for the group. “It’s time for officials to take their heads out of the sand and start looking for some solutions.”

If you have not completed the survey to help shape the debate on NCLB in the coming year, take a few minutes to do so at the PEN site here. Let them know what you realize about what they still refuse to admit: NCLB's built-in failure requirement will lead to the giving of public school dollars to fund private, corporate, and religious schools.

Jim Horn

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