This oft-quoted line from the then-governor of Massachusetts might be updated to include "the public interest," as well as public safety.
There are few matters of public interest greater than educating the next generation. Chicago public school teachers who went on strike Monday have struck against the public interest, placing self-interest in difficult economic times ahead of children.
At a time of high unemployment, the teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union want a pay increase and better medical coverage, as well as provisions that include a hire-back policy for laid-off teachers and one that makes it more difficult to dismiss underperforming teachers.
But there is a way around the current impasse that doesn't involve giving in to the union. It's school choice. Competition would allow parents to send their children to schools that make them the priority.
A June Gallup Poll found that "Americans' confidence in public schools is down five percentage points from last year, with 29 percent expressing 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence in them." Gallup notes "That establishes a new low in public school confidence from the 33 percent measured in Gallup's 2007 and 2008 Confidence in Institution polls." In 1973, the high was 58 percent.
The public school system is a virtual state monopoly inundated by many dictates from Washington and has been unable to consistently produce nearly enough well-rounded graduates capable of supporting themselves or contributing to the nation. Yet public school students, especially the poor and minorities, remain locked in failed schools so that Democratic politicians can seemingly reap the political benefits -- and contributions -- from teachers unions.
Politicians regularly campaign for more spending on education. In Maryland, proponents of an expansion of casino gambling are betting on the success of the familiar appeal that it will provide more money for public schools. But the state, like most of the nation, is spending record amounts on public schools. If money and educational achievement were linked, we'd have a surplus of national merit scholars.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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