Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Education's Failings a National Catastrophe

There is really no surprise when people talk about the schools failing the children. There is however the problem of who will solve it and how it will be solved. All around the world wide web of blogging, people seem to know all the answers to everything. Sometimes, there are great ideas and sometimes there are not. It kills me to read blogs that only want to stick to the status quo...essentially keeping things the way they are. Obviously, the children will not benefit from this.

Education is a highly debated issue among parents, taxpayers, and politicians. I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal I really think people should read. It only reinforces my negative attitude about teachers unions:


Main Street

McCain's School Choice Opportunity


April 29, 2008;

If only Jeremiah Wright had got the right conspiracy.

When Barack Obama's pastor was caught on tape accusing the government of inventing HIV for "genocide against people of color," it was dismissed as another crazy conspiracy theory - which of course it was. But what if the Rev. Wright had used his pulpit to direct a little fire-and-brimstone against a very real outrage: a public-school system that's depriving millions of children of the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy?

Scarcely half of American children in our 50 largest cities will leave their public schools with a high-school diploma in hand, according to a study released by America's Promise Alliance. These children are disproportionately African-American. Their homes are disproportionately located in our largest public school districts. And the failure is a scar on this great land of opportunity.

Alma and Colin Powell, leaders in the alliance that produced this report, spoke about the human blight that can follow the lack of a basic education in an op-ed in the Washington Times. "Students who drop out," they wrote, "are more likely to be incarcerated, to rely on public programs and social services and to go without health insurance than their fellow students who graduate."

That isn't the intent of those who administer this system. But that is the result. And only a latter-day Bull Connor could be happy with the way our inner-city public schools are consigning millions of African Americans to the margins of American opportunity and prosperity.

And it gets worse. One of the few hopeful alternatives in these cities are the Catholic schools, which take the very same students and show that they can learn if given the chance. One University of Chicago researcher found that minority students at Catholic schools are 42% likelier to complete high school than their public school counterparts - and 2 1/2 times more likely to earn a college degree. In difficult circumstances, and for an increasingly non-Catholic student body, these schools are doing heroic work.

Unfortunately, another study released this month, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, reports that Catholic schools are closing at an alarming rate:

More than 1,300 since 1990. Most are located in our cities.

These numbers were behind the special White House summit on Inner-City Schoolchildren and Faith-Based Schools convened last Thursday. The emphasis on faith-based schools is a reflection of practicality, because turning around a failing public school or starting up a new one is difficult, costly and takes time that these children can't afford.

"Many of the parents I know in D.C. are looking for a safe place for their children," says Virginia Walden-Ford, a summit participant and leader with the Black Alliance for Educational Options. "Their children can't afford to wait - they need a place now."

That's the education problem. The political problem has three parts.

First, though polls show that African Americans generally favor school choice, they tend not to vote for pro-school-choice candidates who are mainly Republican. Second, suburban voters of both parties are not enthusiastic about school choice. Many of these voters see increasing options for inner city kids as enabling blacks and Latinos to find their way into their children's schools. And of course, the teachers unions devote their considerable resources to fighting any measure that increases accountability or gives parents more options.

So when politicians have to choose between a teachers union and some African-American mom who would like to take her son out of a failing public school, guess who usually wins?

This system has had remarkable staying power; but the cracks are appearing.

In cities like Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., African-American mayors like Anthony Williams and Cory Booker - Democrats both - have taken courageous stands to offer children more and better school options. And these brave souls are being joined by a growing number of parents, pastors and advocates who recognize that the status quo is cheating their children out of a chance at the American Dream.

There's a good opening here for John McCain. As a senator, he has been a forceful voice for giving lower-income moms and dads the same options for their children that wealthier parents already enjoy. What if he took this campaign into the heart of our cities - and gave a little straight talk about the scandal that their public-school systems represent in this great land of opportunity?

Hillary Clinton can't do it for the same reason that Barack Obama can't:

They cannot offend the teachers unions that are arguably the most powerful constituents in their party. John McCain can.

Will he?

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