Thursday, January 30, 2014

Republican Lamar Alexander Fires Huge Shot at Public Education – Maybe the Atom Bomb

Destroying Public Schools – One Child at a Time

The animosity of Republicans for the nation’s public schools has never been more on display than in a bill proposed by supposedly moderate Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.  On the surface the bill would help low income families provide better education for their children.  In practice if enacted it would deal a huge blow, possibly a death blow to the public school system.

Mr. Alexander proposes to take federal funds aiding public education and give them to low income students who could then use the funds to pay for private schooling.  The impact would be devastating.

Mr. Alexander’s bill would take about $24 billion — or about 41 percent — of current federal spending on elementary and secondary public schools, and allow states to decide whether to give the lowest-income families the money as individual scholarships to pay for private school tuition, or to attend a public school outside the child’s traditional neighborhood zone, or a charter school.

For each eligible child, based on family income, an average of about $2,100 in federal money would be allocated.

The impact of such a law would be

  1. Public education deprived of $24 billion in federal aid, causing many school districts in low income areas to cut back severely on public education, maybe even close.

  1. A small number of students would be enrolled in private schools, while the vast majority of students would be consigned to lower performing public schools.

  1. Massive federal funds going to private schools, many of whom are sponsored by sectarian groups and promote a particular religion.

Of course, this devastation to public school would also be a blow at public school teachers and their unions, long a Republican target.  And if millions of students have to suffer poor education to achieve the Republican goal of a sectarian school system being dominant in America and the loss of any power by teacher’s unions, well so be it.

The message to teachers and their unions here is that this is the culmination of huge mistakes on your part.  Instead of using your clout to have your first priority better education instead of better pay and benefits for teachers, you are achieving neither.  And now it may be too late.  This bill will not become law, but in the future a similar proposal, maybe one directing all federal aid away from the public school system will be come law.

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