(Chuck Muth) – Patrick Gibbons over at the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) testified this week that an “open enrollment” policy in our public schools would benefit children, especially minority children living in low-income communities, by allowing them to choose a better public school than the one they are currently forced to attend in their own neighborhood.
Which is sorta like giving them a choice between the electric chair or lethal injection. But I digress.
Assemblyman Harvey Munford, a black legislator from Las Vegas, objected, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, because “an open enrollment system would lead to some schools becoming athletic powers because their coaches would recruit the best athletes from across the Las Vegas Valley.”
So Mr. Mumford objects to helping poor, minority students get a better education because some white suburban school might recruit some hoops stars from the ghetto and tear up the high school basketball league? Good grief, where is this man’s priorities?
Mumford also reportedly complained that “students who attend a school far from their neighborhoods could have problems with transportation and that their parents might not be able to attend parent-teacher meetings.”
Oh, puh-lease. With choice comes responsibility. The private high school I attended was a good five miles from our home. To get there, my parents participated in an alternating car pool. And on those days when I stayed after school for sports or other extracurricular activities, I walked home. Uphill. Snow, sleet and rain. Fighting Indians along the way. You know the drill.
But in all seriousness, Mr. Mumford, with his knee-jerk opposition to giving parents school choice, has stumbled upon what is, in fact, the ONLY education improvement option that will ever work: Vouchers.
You see, open enrollment only within the public school system is like President Obama’s new Government Motors company saying you can buy your new car in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Not much choice. Indeed, the only real choice in education that will ever be truly effective is if parents can choose a government school OR a private school. However….
You cannot have choice unless you have the means to exercise that choice. Wealthy parents have the cash to send their kids to a community’s elite private schools. And most middle-income parents at least have the ability to move to a middle-income suburban neighborhood where the public schools are measurably better than the ghetto public schools.
But poor families, usually minorities, can’t afford either the cost of a private school or to move to the ‘burbs. Only by taking the money the government spends on education per pupil to those parents, rather than the local school district, do those parents really have a school choice option.
Unfortunately, opposition to school vouchers comes primarily from two distinct camps: the education blob, dominated by the education-retarding teachers union, and white suburban parents.
Forget the educrats and the union bosses. They will continue to stand in the schoolhouse doorway, much like Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1963. But instead of trying to keep poor black children out of the good white schools, they’re trying to keep poor black children inside the lousy black schools.
No, the people we really need to persuade about the value and potential of school vouchers are primarily white suburban voters who have convinced themselves that *their* public school is just fine just because it doesn’t suck as bad as the inner city schools. What’s largely overlooked is that the kids coming out of these suburban public schools will not be competing in the marketplace so much with those poor, minority students here in America, but with students enjoying far better educations from around the world.
The other problem is a certain level of “soft” racism by suburban parents in mostly-white schools who don’t want inner city “colored” kids coming into the private schools they’re paying good money for or the public schools for which they moved to the suburbs in the first place.
But here’s the part those parents, and apparently Mr. Mumford, don’t get: Most minority parents don’t want their kids going to school outside of their own neighborhoods either!
Parents of minorities are like parents of white kids – they prefer their kids attend school close to home. However, they also want their kids to go to get a good education and attend a safe school. And since the government-run cookie-cutter public schools in poor communities will always suck no matter how much money we dump into them, the only hope for these children and their families is private schools in their own neighborhoods.
And yes, that includes religious schools. Examples abound, for instance, of Catholic schools excelling in poor, minority communities around the country. And yes, that means giving parents vouchers so they can afford to pay the tuition at these private schools.
Naturally, the next objection will be that there aren’t enough private schools to accommodate all the parents and children who would leap at the chance to escape the public school mis-education camps. But that, of course, is because those folks are ignorant of the power of the market.
If you suddenly have hundreds and thousands of parents waving $5,000 school vouchers in the air, somebody, somewhere, somehow will find a way to take those vouchers and provide a quality education in the neighborhoods where the vouchers are floating around. Church basements, strip malls, vacant buildings, office parks – if you open it, they will come.
Despite how offended Assemblyman Mumford was at Mr. Gibbons’ observation that the “Ku Klux Klan could not have designed a more racist system” than we have with today’s public schools, Mr. Gibbons has hit the hammer on the head. And while open enrollment within the existing government education monopoly would be marginally better than the current system, only school vouchers can truly set our children free.
So let it be written; so let it be done.