George Will

Economic opportunities exist, however, only where order exists, and where people are sufficiently educated to seize them. Newark, where in a normal year one of every 800 residents is hit by a bullet, has a worse murder rate than New York did before Mayor Giuliani cut it by 66 percent. New Jersey has the highest percentage of people who pay at least 30 percent of their income for housing. A quarter of Newark residents live in poverty. Only 9 percent of residents have college degrees.

Fifty years ago Newark's population was 460,000. Now it is 284,000 -- up about 10,000 in five years -- of which 54 percent are black and 33 percent are Latino. In 1995, the state took over the school system, in which principalships were being sold and so much of schools' budgets went for the salaries of unionized teachers that some classrooms lacked even chalk.

Today, per pupil spending tops $17,000, which is 75 percent above the national average and a (redundant) refutation of the public education lobby's not disinterested judgment that in primary and secondary education, cognitive outputs correlate with financial inputs. Seventy percent of Newark's 11th graders flunk the state's math test. Booker says that under the previous mayor's administration, every elected official sent his or her children to private schools. "I'm the Malcolm X of education -- 'By any means necessary,'" Booker promises. He says Newark should reverse the assumption that in education "time will be a constant, achievement will vary." If children are not succeeding, extend their school day, bring them in on Saturdays, extend the school year.

He also favors school choice, although he tiptoes around the word "vouchers," which inflames the more than 190,000 members of the state's teachers union. He advocates giving tax credits to companies for money contributed for scholarships to private as well as public schools. "Who," he has asked, "can object to a pool of money that will give poor children the same opportunities as middle-class kids?"

Who? Start with those 190,000, yet another mob afflicting Newark.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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