Lawmakers obsessed with wrong
Far out critics rely on myths for
their common contempt of public schools: They’re incubators of teachers’
unions, devoted to godless liberalism, tolerant of failed teaching,
havens for lazy bureaucrats and unfit for bright students.
The reality, unhappily, is that
public education’s plight—rundown buildings, underpaid teachers,
oversized classes, spotty student achievement, federally mandated
rules—is the result of political meddling.
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and his
anti-public schools claque in the Legislature are obsessed with charter
schools, their conservative antidote to public education. From the
Legislature’s opening bell, Kempthorne & Co. have been tinkering with
rules and appropriations to benefit only 4,800 charter students
statewide, or 2 percent of Idaho’s secondary school enrollment.
The same lawmakers stoutly resist
Fourth District Judge Deborah Bail’s 2001 order to fund urgent brick and
mortar improvements to ramshackle public schools, even ordering Idaho
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to deviously claim tax-poor school
districts are responsible for repairs, not the state.
Meanwhile, charter schools
nationally post the same mixed performance as public schools—but some
are going bankrupt and forcing students back into public classrooms.
The difference is that
conservatives who shortchange a public education system that has served
the nation nobly will spend whatever public funds are necessary on
charter schools to prove they’re right.
Even if in the end they’re