Thursday, April 24, 2008

With friends like these ...

During floor debate on the New Hope Scholarship Act yesterday, state Rep. Ray McCarter (D-Marlow) made a valiant bid for entry into public education's "Friends Like These" Hall of Fame. Mr. McCarter, a public-school teacher and administrator, helpfully explained why private schools are able to perform so well academically: It’s because of the students they are able to enroll. "They’re smart kids," McCarter explained, "or else they’d be in the public schools with the rest of the kids." All righty then.

Of course, Rep. McCarter isn’t the only school-choice opponent whose arguments might cause the education establishment to wince. Last year on the House floor, state Rep. Wallace Collins (D-Norman) confessed: "I’m only a public school graduate so I'm not very literate." (Not to worry, Rep. Collins, there's a lot of that going around.)

And who can forget state Sen. Constance "Sinking Ship" Johnson (D-Oklahoma City), who memorably asked on the Senate floor why it is "we want to take some of the kids out of the public schools and essentially leave the rest on the sinking ship?"

Perhaps my favorite observation is from one Evelyn Walsh of Guthrie, who suggested in a letter to the editor last year that school choice is a bad idea because, well, the majority of Oklahomans might just choose a private school. After all, she pointed out, it's unlikely that "people will opt for hamburger when T-bone steaks are available."

With friends like these, does the education establishment really need enemies?

David Boaz puts it well in his new book The Politics of Freedom. "Every argument against choice made by the education establishment reveals the contempt that establishment has for its own product. School boards, superintendents, and teacher unions are convinced that no one would attend public schools if they had the choice. Like Fidel Castro and former postmaster general Anthony Frank, they have a keen sense of the consumer demand for their product and are fighting a rearguard action to protect their monopoly."

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