Thomas Sowell

A member of the New York City Council discovered recently that all the walls in a school she inspected had been painted up to 10 feet above the floor, with the rest of the walls and the ceilings being left unpainted.

Why? Because there is a rule that the custodians can paint only the first 10 feet, with the rest being left to be painted by the painters -- when they get around to it.

In other words, the schools are treated like a political pork barrel that is divided up for the benefit of the various unions. Putting more pork in the barrel does not mean that you are going to get better educated children. With public schools carved up into various fiefdoms and tied up in tons of red tape, the last thing the teachers' unions want is competition from private schools that don't have all this baggage to hold them back. No wonder the NEA is going all out to stop parents from having vouchers that would give them a choice of where to send their children to school.

Unfortunately, Republicans have a terrible record of letting the Democrats get away with fishy arguments about how vouchers would drain money from the public schools. Think about it: If 10 percent of the students leave the public schools and take 10 percent of the money with them, how is that reducing the amount of money per student in the public schools?

This argument insults our intelligence by assuming that we can't do arithmetic. On the other hand, after years of dumbed-down education, maybe a lot of people can't. But have you ever heard a Republican answer that argument against vouchers? Nonsense can fly if you don't shoot it down.

Actually, when 10 percent of the students leave the public schools with vouchers, less than 10 percent of the money leaves with them, because vouchers do not pay as much as the public schools spend per pupil. Even so, teachers' unions are going all-out to stop vouchers, because any competition threatens to expose both the public schools' failures and their excuses for failure.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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