Voucher advocates have been leaning heavily on the “we’re just out to help poor kids” button. Richard Evans, an advocate for privatizing public education, takes it a step further in today’s Union Leader, saying that only a bully out to hurt poor kids would oppose vouchers. Mr. Evans seems to be in tune with the California group with two names that came to New Hampshire to help write the law and is now in charge of receiving and distributing millions of dollars in tax credit funded donations under the program. Called The Alliance for the Separation of School and State outside New Hampshire and the Network for Educational Opportunity inside New Hampshire, they say their goal is to “end government involvement in education.” The little religious schools who lobbied for the law agree as well, saying their goal is to replace public education with religious schools teaching a conservative Creationist curriculum.
When you see opinion pieces like this one by Mr. Evans, you need to put it in context. That’s what I will do, below.
The political bullying of NH school children continues
I DESPISE bullies.
One of the most profound impressions ever made on me was when, as a young man in the 1980s, I travelled along the border between China and Hong Kong. I vividly remember watching the people on the Chinese side laboring in the rice fields, literally in the shadow of the gun towers which sprouted from the barbed wire at frequent intervals. At the end of the day, my wife and I crossed back to the other side of the wire beyond which lay freedom and prosperity.
For our Chinese guide and the folks in the fields, however, that was a forbidden land. How unimaginably galling it must have been for them to peer through that barrier every day of their lives, and see Nirvana so close and yet so unattainable.
Years later I realized that the most telling feature of any wall is the posture of the guards. The Chinese guards on the border, like their counterparts who once manned the equally dismal Berlin Wall, were not defending their fellow citizens against outside attack. They were facing inwards, preventing escape. Arch bullies, one and all.
The Chinese guards on the border [between China and Hong Kong]…were facing inwards, preventing escape. Arch bullies, one and all.
Not all walls are physical structures. The wall that has been erected around our public schools is purely economic, yet it traps those it surrounds equally as effectively as any barbed wire. Escape is theoretically feasible, but it comes with a price tag that is beyond the means of most families.
Public schools are just like Communism. Get it?
To leave is to forgo, for some completely unfathomable reason, all access to a share of the substantial funding that society allocates to education.
All of the money must stay behind.
Those whose educational preferences lean towards a different sort of school, outside the wall, are bereft of financial “cherishing” — children of a lesser God, apparently.
I think he is saying that your tax money should follow your child to fund the private school. You shouldn’t have to pay school taxes if your child doesn’t attend. (Presumably, no one else without children should pay either.)
Recently, however, the tiniest of cracks appeared in the financial wall. The Scholarship Act of 2012 allowed small grants to go to lower-income families in order to make it easier for them, like their wealthier counterparts, to choose a non-public school for their children. Not surprisingly, perhaps since students in non-public schools pass Advanced Placement exams at four times the rate of their public school peers, the act was an attractive proposition for many. Five hundred children in the state have applied already.
Mr. Evans is alone in proposing that education in private schools is better than in public schools. Educational results vary widely in each sector and, over all, are about the same. However, children who go to New Hampshire’s small unaccredited religious schools that teach that dinosaurs and people were created on the sixth day will probably not benefit from teaching comparable to that of our public schools. Under the voucher program, supporters made sure that we would never know. Unlike the strict accountability we have in our charter schools, there would be no accountability for the private schools receiving millions of dollars in public subsidy.
Although the amount of money involved represents less than two tenths of one percent of what is consumed annually by the public schools, and it is not even dispensed from government coffers, the usual guards rushed to their ramparts. Teachers union lobbyists, superintendents and the school boards association, all facing most definitely inwards, howled with one voice, “No escape!”
Actually, at $8.5 million over first two years, the initial tax credit authority is large – larger than that of our 30 year old Community Development Finance Authority. Unlike the rigorous finance authority, there is no transparency or oversight for the voucher program. And the the law allows these tax credits to grow quickly.
And so was born the repeal act, House Bill 370, among the most shameful legislative efforts ever to stain the honor of the State House chambers.
School choice is a concept that has egalitarianism and fairness writ large all over it.
By every measure of common sense, it should be in the vanguard of the political platform of the Democratic Party, leveling life’s most fundamental playing field by providing equal educational opportunity to the less fortunate.
There you have it: democracy equals privatization.
But HB 370, backed almost universally by Democrats, opposes safeguarding the interests of the downtrodden.
Why do Democrats oppose vouchers? Democrats are committed to supporting strong public schools that educate all the community’s children, regardless of need, rather than farming the kids out to an unaccountable patchwork of private schools.
HB 370 seeks to obliterate choice, to shore up the wall and to cement the monopoly of the public unions. And what if you’re one of those 500 lower-income kids yearning for nothing more than a chance? Too bad.
Obliterate choice? Not at all. New Hampshire has developed a responsive and responsible group of public charter schools. And choice advocates could support allowing children to go to out of district schools. But it is privatization they are after.
About those “500 lower-income kids:” whatever happens with repeal efforts and court challenges, voucher advocates have only raised enough tuition money for maybe 60 kids so far. Businesses who support public education and are proud of New Hampshire schools can’t figure out why they’d pay for kids to go to unaccredited private schools.
Finally, I think we’re supposed to draw a parallel between the “public unions” and the Communist border guards.
If you’re looking for school bullying, try that one on for size.
Notwithstanding the fact that her own daughter attended the very private Phillips Exeter Academy (where the Hassan family lives and the governor’s husband is in charge), our new governor, Maggie Hassan, is an active supporter of school choice repeal. Surely, in the entire spectrum of political hypocrisy, there is nothing that quite compares to wealthy officials who exercise school choice for their own families while denying it to others less financially fortunate. Count Gov. Hassan, too, among the ranks of the school bullies.
The public school lobby, on the whole, prides itself on efforts made to identify bullies. Plainly, a mirror would be a useful addition to its toolbox in that regard. The most effective method of stamping out school bullying, though, would be if the Senate resoundingly rejects HB 370 and sends an unequivocal message: “Governor Hassan, tear down that wall!”
There. Now those commies are exposed for the bullies they are.