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Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Lawmakers obsessed with wrong schools

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 disastrously wrong.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.