A progressive mingling with Tea Partiers? Guilty! I gritted what teeth I have left and headed for a local TP rally in honor of National School Choice Week, mainly because the featured speaker was going to be the individual who gave the party its national voice, Dick Armey. The event was scheduled for the evening of Groundhog Day, February 2nd.
Groundhog day was a little odd since the dates for National School Choice Week were actually January 22-28. The National School Choice Week website was still up post-event and I noticed the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) icon prominently displayed at the bottom of the page as a supporter. My guess is that ALEC’s support extended to major bucks.
The rally was held in a Chateau-like structure located in a public park. I felt like I should have arrived by ski-lift. Instead I wound my way around the park and backed my pickup into a space about a half-block away from the host building. The lot was already filling up 30 minutes before the official opening.
I had no sooner weaved my way to a stop when a scruffy, somewhat ill-kempt fellow approached my Dakota. He reminded me of those aggressive car salesmen that grab your door handle the minute you stop your engine. I rolled the window down as he greeting me and handed me a single sheet of paper with the heading ‘Preschools Are Using a Marxist’s Theories to Manufacture Collectivists’. I had no idea. The piece was written by one Chuck Roger with a snooty accent aigu over the ‘e’. Seems Ghuck is convinced our kids are being ruined by a long-dead psychologist named Lev Vygotsky, 77 years removed from this earth.
The other subject matter on the page displayed a website that listed 24 things that government schools dare not teach. Examples 1, 2 and 3 were staring back at me. The first ‘thing’ the schools DARE NOT TEACH was that all men were endowed with certain unalienable rights (I’ve compressed a bit). The second ‘thing’ the schools DARE NOT TEACH was that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men and finally, schools DARE NOT TEACH the meaning of liberty.
I’d like to give you the address of the website so you can read the entirety of these first 3 of these forbidden fruits and the remaining 21, but I DARE NOT!
I quickly thanked this poor wretch and headed in a fast walk to the Chateau.
When I took one step inside the door I felt an immediate thump on my lapel. A lady had affixed a decal on my sports coat like the one with your name on it at gatherings where most of the attendees are strangers. I never bothered to write my name. Upon returning home, I discovered that for the night I had been a human billboard featuring the words ‘SCHOOL CHOICE is the RIGHT choice. So, for this one night, I was a decal-wearing school choicer.
The decal was far from the only school choice propaganda of the night. Tables lined the entire length of one wall, all stacked high with assorted literature, mostly glossy, colorful and expensive.
I quickly skipped over the dessert table, loaded with every high-fat cookie imaginable and its frosted first cousins. And these people want to repeal health care?
The first table piece I ran into was a cryptic single-page in black, white and orange that had Speak/Act in giant letters. The page referred repeatedly to the website of South Carolinians for Responsible Government. SCRG is most obsessed with Superintendent pay and further down the table, SCRG literature headlined Top Ten Overpaid Non-teaching “Educators” named names and showed pictures. Note to SCRG. If you’re competing with the private sector, you’re going to have to pay a fairly high wage to get good people. The average hospital CEO makes $450,000 as of last year. The top Superintendents listed don’t make half that, some far less.
The piece also described how far below the national average the district’s SAT scores were and how lousy GPA’s were and criticized shortfalls in graduation rates.
Let’s get something else straight. If a child comes from an impoverished background, teachers can have no more than a 15% impact on that youngster’s future. There are many other factors involved in the success or failure of these young people. That’s why many private schools cherry-pick the best students, giving an artificial picture of their SAT, GPA and graduation numbers. Given the odds, it’s extraordinary what public school teachers still manage to do for those unfortunate socio-economically challenged students.
Still further down, SCRG also offered a ten-page mini-tome breaking down the costs to the state and locals of every school district in South Carolina, plus a boatload of every educational expenditure extant. The distorted explanation of teacher job losses was painful to read. If there are fewer teachers, it’s because they leave of their own accord. Firings? Maybe a few. Ignored is the fact that over the past two years public schools have lost over $750 million in state funding. Lemme see – what page was that on? Thousands of teachers were laid off, with salary freezes in the offing for those who remained.
In August of 2011, The South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and his fellow birdbrain, Governor Nikki Haley, refused to go after $144 million in federal money from the federal Education Jobs Fund. It was money for school districts impacted by the economy and forced to lay off teachers. No other state, red or blue, was that ignorant or insensitive to the lives of school employees. Zais said the money would result in unwanted ‘federal intrusion’.
But the piece de resistance of the table top displays was a glossy, 33-page, full-color booklet with pictures of every member of the state General Assembly and their contact information. At least 500 copies had to be printed given the crowd estimates of 350-400.
And the final item, rather nice T-shirts (you can guess the screenprints) weren’t cheap either.
I’ve got a call in to a printer friend of mine. I’ll share his estimates in part two of my school choice visit. You’ll also hear what Armey and his sycophants had to say about your horrible public (government) schools after I sat down with three little kids.