After quite a bit of bad news on school vouchers on the state level of late, we can finally report a positive development thanks to a U.S. Senate Committee: A federal voucher ploy has been defeated!
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was considering amendments to S. 1094, the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act,” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C) introduced an amendment that would have allowed states to turn their Title I funds into giant voucher programs. It would have permitted any child whose income threshold qualifies his or her public school to receive Title I funds to take the allotment and use it toward tuition at religious and other private schools.
In 2009-2010, 56,000 public schools received Title I funds on behalf of 21 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It is not known exactly how much taxpayer money the Paul/Scott amendment would have cost, but the entire program received over $14 billion in fiscal 2012, according to the Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation.
Passage of this amendment, which was backed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking HELP Committee Republican, could have dealt a serious blow to public education given the amount of money and students involved.
Billions of public dollars could have been diverted to religious schools that are allowed to indoctrinate and discriminate, all while being free of the standards to which public schools are accountable.
Fortunately HELP Committee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) saw through the voucher scheme, as did all the other Democrats on the committee. Two Republicans, Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), also voted against the ploy, which failed 8-14.
Unfortunately this is probably not the end for federal voucher proposals, given that Alexander told The New York Times last week that he and Paul would introduce a similar amendment to the one that failed once S. 1094 comes up for a Senate floor vote.
Faux Libertarian Rand Paul fails with bill to subsidize private religious schools with your tax dollars.
There has been a lot of talk lately by some lawmakers about creating a national federal voucher for religious and other private schools. But until last week, not much had come of it.
Americans United is happy to report that during a marathon session on Friday to consider amendments to the U.S. Senate’s 2014 budget proposal, a measure that would have endorsed school vouchers was soundly defeated 39-60.
The amendment, which was offered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), received bipartisan disapproval with all Democrats and six Republicans voting against it.
Americans United worked hard to oppose the voucher boondoggle, sending out an action alert to our members ahead of the vote, asking them to tell their senators to just say no to vouchers. AU also led the National Coalition for Public Education, which it co-chair
GOP voucher schemes have one aim in mind: tearing down public education institutions to fund private religious schools.
Bad news from Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has signed a neo-voucher bill designed to divert tens of millions in public funds to religious and other private schools.
The so-called Alabama Accountability Act began as a relatively non-controversial measure that allowed local school districts to opt out of state regulations. But during a House-Senate conference committee dominated by Republicans, HB 84 was altered to set up a tax-credit scheme that lets students in “failing” public schools transfer to private schools.
The legislative shenanigans that led to this bill’s passage were outrageous - featuring duplicity, back-stabbing and closed-door intrigues. Montgomery Advertiser reporter Sebastian Kitchen said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and other Republicans pretended to be working with Democrats and education groups on the legislation.
“Meanwhile,” Kitchen said, “Republicans were secretly working on a vastly different bill — knowing their discussions about the actual legislation that people could read were a sham. At best, some key Republicans were intentionally misleading in their previous conversations. At worst, they lied.”
When the altered bill came before the state Senate, that body erupted into chaos. Senators yelled at each other and called names for over 20 minutes as Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey tried vainly to regain control.
A circuit court judge later barred the measure from going to governor’s office for his signature, finding the process a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The order, however, was predictably overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court, an all-Republican body led by notorious “Ten Commandments” Judge Roy Moore, a scofflaw who bases his opinions as much on his fundamentalist reading of the Bible as he does the Constitution.
Gov. Bentley then quickly added his name to the measure.
Supporters of the measure say it will cost taxpayers from $60 to $70 million annually. Analysts at the Alabama Education Association (AEA) say it’s more likely to be $250 million. Some critics think it might run as high as $367 million.
Regardless of the amount, it’s too much. The Alabama Constitution is pretty darn clear on this topic. Article I, Sec. 3 bars the government to force anyone to pay taxes “for maintaining any minister or ministry,” and Article XIV, Sec. 263 states flatly, “No money raised for the support of the public schools shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian or denominational school.”
Watch for a major fight in Congress over taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools.
In his Republican response to the State of the Union this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) touted “school choice,” a euphemism for vouchers.
“We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice,” Rubio said.
The next day, the Florida senator rolled out his “Educational Opportunities Act,” a neo-voucher bill that lets corporations and individuals donate money to “scholarship granting organizations” that pay for tuition at private schools. The donors get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit - for corporations up to $100,000 and for individuals up to $4,500 - and private schools, most of them religious, get a windfall of new money.
Call it a Rubio Goldberg Machine that takes tax dollars, spins them around and puts them into the collection plates of various religious schools that are then free to use the cash to indoctrinate and discriminate.
It’s more than a little ironic that Rubio, who spent a lot of time in his speech talking about the federal debt problem, told The Miami Herald that he doesn’t know how much his scheme will cost.
The newspaper said Rubio’s private school slush fund reflects his close ties with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush has relentlessly pushed private school subsidies in the Sunshine State for years, and the Herald said some of his former associates helped Rubio concoct his plan.
The senator’s neo-voucher campaign is likely to have a companion effort in the U.S. House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has announced plans to put forward a “school choice” scheme, and it’s certain to have the enthusiastic backing of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Boehner is positively obsessed with taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools. He used all his political clout - and backroom political wheeling and dealing - to keep in place a federally funded voucher program in the District of Columbia that underwrites tuition at Roman Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant and Muslim schools.
“National School Choice Week” treated us to an avalanche of propaganda for vouchers, neo-vouchers and other expressions of so-called “educational choice.”
It’s all a lie, of course. This is not about “choice.” It’s about funding religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars and ultimately destroying the public school system.
If you think the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos are in this just to help to some poor kid in the inner city, they’ve got a privatized bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you.
Fortunately, Americans United and other advocates of public schools and church-state separation have been spreading an alternative message: School vouchers are a constitutional and public policy disaster.
AU has waged a Twitter campaign this week to expose the voucher forces’ prevarications. And we’ve put up a special webpage to outline the facts about vouchers. (We have a tumblr page you might enjoy as well.)
Others are weighing in, too.
* Journalist Barbara J. Miner says vouchers in Milwaukee have been “an educational policy disaster.”
* The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says vouchers undercut civil rights and “violate the promise of equality.”
* Anti-creationism crusader Zack Kopplin says vouchers subsidize private religious schools that teach fundamentalist doctrines instead of sound science.
* Patrick Elliott, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says voucher-subsidized private schools in Milwaukee indoctrinate children in religious beliefs but often offer poor academic instruction. Clara Mohammed School, for example, takes children on a “Qu’ran-guided journey” but fails to take them anywhere else. “It is funded,” says Elliott, “almost exclusively through vouchers. In 2011, only 0.8% of its students -1 out of 123 - tested proficient in math and 5.7% tested proficient in reading on state exams.”
In another conservative experiment with tax dollars there are vouchers going to some highly questionable religious schools, and a lot of Catholic Schools. 8 years later it’s time for the Feds to stop bailing out religious schools and instead invest more in public schools.
When Congress created the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program, advocates said the plan would improve the education of some of the poorest urban youths.
Eight years later, it seems clear that things haven’t gone as planned.
A lengthy investigation of the Washington, D.C., voucher program by The Washington Post showed that many parents use the voucher money to send their children to schools that are unaccredited and unaccountable.
In addition, the program has become a type of bailout for Catholic schools. More than half of 1,584 students who receive vouchers use them to attend Catholic institutions.
Some of the schools examined, which include a K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted house, and a school built on the teachings of an obscure Bulgarian psychotherapist, could not survive without federal funds, The Post said. In some cases, more than 90 percent of a school’s students pay with federal vouchers.
Congress allocated $20 million for the D.C. voucher program for this year, The Post reported, and since 2004 the federal government has set aside $133 million for the program. Students who meet the household income requirements can receive about $8,000 per year for elementary school and around $12,000 per year for high school.
And yet, the schools are not accountable to the taxpayers who are forced to fund them. No government official has say over the curriculum, academic quality or management of the schools.
In fact, the only requirements for D.C. schools that accept voucher students are that the institutions must have a certificate of occupancy and employ teachers who are college graduates. One requirement that is glaringly absent from that list is accreditation. D.C. private schools aren’t required to be accredited in order to enroll voucher students, and The Post found that at least eight of the 52 schools that accept vouchers lack accreditation.
By now you have of course heard all the scary predictions coming from the Right about how this country is doomed if Obama is re-elected. About how America will become a socialist dictatorship, will give up its sovereignty to the U.N., all guns will be banned, and Christians locked up as the Muslims take over, etc, etc…
The funny thing is that we have heard all of this before, back when Obama first ran for office back in 2008. The vast majority of these scenarios were promoted by the so called ‘Christian’ Right and were hyped relentlessly by their websites and media channels. Today we see history repeating itself as similar predictions are made, perpetrated by the same groups of people. I wanted to take a look back to see which if any of their predictions actually came true.
When I started thinking back and trying to recall all of the doomsday predictions made about an Obama Presidency I immediately felt overwhelmed. There were just so many of them, made by so many different people and groups, I wasn’t sure I would be able to remember many of them, much less locate them for reference.
Fortunately for me my search almost immediately led me to a great source of scary Obama predictions all conveniently packaged together. One that even includes citations helpful in locating where many of these fearful scenarios originated from.
In 2008 Focus on the Family published a fictional ‘Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America’ (.pdf) that purports itself as being from a Christian in the future scary world of Oct. 2012. It describes what they thought 2012 would be like under the Obama administration from a Christian Right perspective…
I can hardly sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ any more. When I hear the words,
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, ‘Yes,’ to that question. We are not ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.
The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.
Ominous opening ehh?
The Supreme Court
…The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to
create laws from the bench…
…Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court…
…Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.
Nope, never happened, instead we got “corporations are people my friend” AKA ‘Citizens United.’ However if it had happened then they claim it would have led to…
The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual ‘marriage’ was a ‘constitutional’ right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex ‘marriage’ violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution…
…After that decision, many other policies changed, and several previous Supreme Court cases were reversed rather quickly — raising the question, ‘Is America still the land of the free?’
Now that a proper background has been set for how the following things “could happen” they begin to list their nightmare fantasies for the country under Obama.
(1) Boy Scouts: ‘The land of the free’?
The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with
…It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.
Apparently in the “future” scoutmasters are “hired” (and paid?) but they cannot afford their own tents? Also, since the majority of Scout activities are held in church owned properties I wonder if they are not actually at greater risk of losing their facilities by recognizing homosexual members?
(2) Elementary schools: ‘The land of the free’?
Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to ‘opt out’ their children
from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health…
…Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired…
…they quit by the thousands, no matter the personal cost, rather than commit what they believed to be a direct sin against God…
…private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court
ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.
Private schools are currently a hugh growth industry, especially the “Christian faith based” ones, now that federal and state education money is available to them in many cases.
(3) Adoption agencies: ‘The land of the free’?
There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses…
…Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with ‘narrow’ or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.
Anyway this assumes that keeping a child out of a loving and affluent home simply because they would be raised by two mommies or two daddies rather than a mom and a dad is the right thing. If that really is more important to these agencies than their license then that would be their own choice and responsibility, wouldn’t it?
(4) Businesses with government contracts: ‘The land of the free’?
All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples…
Even if this had happened why would it be wrong? They are already required to show that they do not discriminate based on race, sex, or religion, why would adding sexual orientation be such a great burden?
(5) Public broadcasting: ‘The land of the free’?
The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such ‘offensive’ doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior…
Hate speech laws show no sign of having any real popular or judicial support in America, nor does the first amendment allow them. Even hate crime legislation that only penalizes violent acts against homosexuals has faced strong resistance everywhere they have been proposed.
(6) Doctors and lawyers: ‘The land of the free’?
Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine…
…Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.
Nope, this hasn’t happened either. You don’t think that doctors and lawyers can stick up for themselves if need be?
(7) Counselors and social workers: ‘The land of the free’?
All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide
‘professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling’ for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.
Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing if it happened, hateful people really should not be counselors in the first place. Regardless, Church staff counselors would be protected via the first amendment, at least as long as their service was provided free, the state would then have no grounds to regulate their activity. Private professional licensing boards are another matter altogether, but again church counselors are not even required to have a license if the service is free.
(8) Homosexual weddings: ‘The land of the free’?
Church buildings are now considered a ‘public accommodation’ by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and antidiscrimination lawsuits.
Not even possible under the first amendment.
(9) Homosexual church staff members: ‘The land of the free’?
While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as parttime youth pastor or director of counseling…
Again, not even possible under the first amendment.
(10) Homosexuals in the military: [‘The land of the free’?]
One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President
Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to
compensate for past discrimination)…
Verdict: Partially Right (finally)
It took President Obama almost 3 years to decide to reverse DADT, but there are no special recruitment efforts or bonuses for homosexuals. The other consequences and discrimination against “straight” soldiers predicted later in the paragraph haven’t happened either. Besides which DADT was a nonsensical policy anyway, it was equivalent to saying…”Sure we allow Gays in the Military, we just pretend they don’t exist.”
Religious speech in the public square
(11) High schools: ‘The land of the free’?
High schools are no longer free to allow ‘See You at the Pole’ meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before
or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both ‘proselytizing’ and involves ‘worship”…
The courts have consistently ruled that religious activities are allowed on school grounds when attendance by students is a voluntary choice. At school functions such as sports events, dances, and rallies which all students may want to attend religious convocations are not allowed. This is because those of other religions or the non-religious are thereby having their first amendment right of freedom from state sponsored religion infringed upon. Why is this so very hard for the Christian Right to understand?
(12) Church use of school property: ‘The land of the free’?
Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school
was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose…
The courts have no interest whatsoever in who uses school property when school is out, this is why you find churches, A.A., N.A., Boy Scouts, Book Clubs, and various other social groups using school building for meetings. You have left the realm of plausibility and entered a fantasy world where the courts would do this solely to inflict harm on Christians.
(13) Campus ministries: ‘The land of the free’?
Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist…
…a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that
universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote ‘hate speech’ and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies…
Once again, there is no such thing as “hate speech” under American law and groups organized for religious purposes are free to practice their religion in any manner they choose within the constraints of criminal law.
(14) Pledge of Allegiance: ‘The land of the free’?
Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.
The possibility does exist that one day the court will hold that “under God” is an unconstitutional addition to the pledge on first amendment grounds. However rather than requiring that the pledge be banned such a ruling would only mean that it would have to revert to its pre-1954 form before those words were added.
(15) Freedom of Choice Act: [‘The land of the free’?]
Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, ‘The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the
Freedom of Choice Act’ (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund). This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer
funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically…
The Freedom of Choice Act has never even been voted on by either chamber of Congress, much less passed. Instead we have gotten a plethora of new laws passed by state legislatures that further restrict access to abortion services by women.
(16) Nurses and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences…
No such Federal law exists, nor has such a law even been proposed by a member of Congress.
(17) Doctors and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and
obstetrics, and many have retired.
See response to (16) above.
(18) Pornography: ‘The land of the free’?
It’s almost impossible to keep children from
seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts…
Now your just being silly, no one (almost) wishes to see pornography on normal television 24/7. Besides, those that do wish to see that type of content around the clock can go to adult cable channels that already carry it.
(19) Guns: ‘The land of the free’?
It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for selfdefense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)…
…In this new decision, the court specified that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a ‘well regulated militia’ in the various states…
The Supreme Court has made no further rulings on gun ownership since the Heller case threw out Washington D.C.’s handgun ban.
END OF PART I
See Part II at littlegreenfootballs.com
Why vouchers? Because upper middle class conservatives want the failing religious schools where they warehouse their bratty children subsidized.
Advocates of private school vouchers often point to Wisconsin as a model. The state has had a voucher plan since the early 1990s. At first limited to secular private schools in the city of Milwaukee, the voucher scheme was later expanded to include religious institutions.
Other changes are more recent. A similar plan was set up in Racine, and in Milwaukee, income caps were raised, and suburban private schools were brought into the plan. The upshot of this is that a plan that was once described as an “experiment” to help low-income families in troubled areas of Milwaukee is now firmly entrenched and aiding middle-class families in the suburbs.
Who saw that coming?
Well, actually, Americans United did. Twenty-one years ago when the Wisconsin plan was proposed, we warned that it wouldn’t increase student performance, wouldn’t help the poor and would end up bailing out financially troubled religious schools.
No, we’re not psychic. Plain old common sense told us that the claims of voucher boosters were wildly exaggerated. On student performance, for example, the record is clear: Voucher students are doing no better than their public school counterparts, and in some cases are doing worse.
Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
‘I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,’ the District 64 Representative said Monday.
‘I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,’ Hodges said.
Link to article here This link goes to the mobile site, since the regular site requires a log in.
After 30 years—some historians might say 100 years—of rhetoric about the “crisis” in American education, it’s getting hard to come up with new ways to frighten the public about the state of American schools. So maybe it’s understandable that the Council on Foreign Relations chose a foreboding title for its March report: “U.S. Education Reform and National Security.” The message is even blunter in one of the chapter titles, “The Education Crisis Is a National Security Crisis.” The council points to a slew of subpar standardized test scores as well as to the surprising fact that 75 percent of young people don’t qualify for military service. (Education is hardly the only reason for that; criminal records and lack of physical fitness can also be disqualifiers.) The solutions recommended by the council task force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City public-schools chief Joel Klein, are almost as well worn as the crisis talk: Parents need more vouchers, which let them use public dollars for private schools; teachers need to be easier to fire; and we all need more charter schools.
“I think we should raise the alarm level,” Klein told PBS NewsHour. “When a secretary of state calls this out as a national-security issue … I think we need to stop thinking this is somehow a narrow education problem and we will all be fine.”
The message, boiled down, has a familiar ring: Schools have failed, and we desperately need alternatives—or we will not be fine. Based on the urgent tone, you might think that lawmakers had been ignoring the education-reform movement. But the reformers’ policy agenda has been widely embraced. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of American students in charter schools tripled. Vouchers also experienced a boom, with 19 states now offering programs. Several states have made it easier to fire teachers.