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OPINION

Our Money, Good--Their Profits, Bad

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“One thing that we’ve done,” boasted Dennis McBride of Support our Schools-Wauwatosa, “is we’ve made sure every time one of our legislators pops up his or her head above the foxhole, we’re there to shoot at them.”

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His audience, consisting of educators at a free event hosted by the non-profit Wisconsin Public Education Network, laughed.

A woman in the crowd interjected, “Nobody in here is like recording that, where that’s going to end up on somebody’s campaign trail?”

We know all this because the watchdog John K. MacIver Institute was indeed recording the event, running the story under the headline, “Panelist Jokes About Shooting Legislators at Public Education Summit.”

No real worries, though: it was just a metaphor.

The genuinely kooky thoughts were less figurative.

How kooky?

One speaker encouraged the audience never to say the two words, “Scott Walker,” for fear of giving the Wisconsin governor who-must-not-be-named any higher exposure. This communication strategy appears more political than educational, but, at least, quite tame by comparison with the rest of the nonsense.

“Some of the first voucher supporters,” asserted Jonas Persson of the Center for Media and Democracy, “outside of this kind of new right core group of ideologues and wealthy entrepreneurs, were white supremacists. . . .”

Incredibly, he insisted that the school choice movement “drew most of its support from, quote, ‘white flight Aryans.’”

Persson blamed by name the Heritage Foundation, Heartland Institute and Cato Institute for “launching whitewashing campaigns” that have “managed to make [vouchers] acceptable by obscuring desegregation’s history."

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Not a word was whispered, however, about the grassroots support for vouchers in African-American communities.

“Vouchers were never about helping the poor, at risk, or minorities. . . .” Or so ran Persson’s daring contention, calling that motivation a “fiction of how right-wing ideologues and corporate backers gained, politically, bipartisan support, an ideological scheme designed to privatize public schools.”

Ruth Conniff, the editor of The Progressive, claimed that, after 25 years of experience, voucher systems are “yielding no better results academically than the public schools.”

No better?

There is an interesting admission here, for had voucher experience proved even a smidgen worse than the public schools, she would surely have informed us of that fact.

Of course, she is mistaken. Numerous studies show the benefits of voucher programs over government-run schooling.

The School Choice Demonstration Project, a joint study conducted by the University of Arkansas and the University of Wisconsin, found Milwaukee voucher students more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to go to college than their public school counterparts.

A study published by Harvard University looked at New York City students receiving vouchers and discovered they were 35 percent more likely to go on to obtain a college degree.

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Facts, however, are surprisingly easy to ignore.

“Profits in education were consistently mentioned throughout the day,” MacIver’s Ola Lisowski reported, “as panel members expressed their strong opposition to school choice programs.”

“The ultimate goal is about breaking down public schools and to be honest with you,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison of Wisconsin Jobs Now/Schools and Communities United, “it’s about profiting off of the education of our kids.”

Heavens! Making a profit by serving parents and children “consuming” education?

Unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Epps-Addison pushed the Wisconsin Freedom Compact, a plan that calls for a $6 billion dollar hike in tax money going to K-12 education, a greater than 50 percent increase in current funding.

Will she guarantee that no one will profit from that?


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