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"Liberal" or Progressive, Same Old Nonsense

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    Liberal or Progressive, Same Old Nonsense By George Will November 01, 2007 In today s political taxonomy, progressives are rebranded liberals dodging the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007
      Liberal or Progressive, Same Old Nonsense
      By George Will
      November 01, 2007

      In today's political taxonomy, "progressives" are rebranded liberals
      dodging the damage they did to their old label. Perhaps their most
      injurious idea -- injurious to themselves and public schools -- was
      the forced busing of (mostly other peoples') children to
      engineer "racial balance" in public schools. Soon, liberals will need
      a third label if people notice what "progressives" are up to in Utah.

      There, teachers unions, whose idea of progress is preservation of the
      status quo, are waging an expensive and meretricious campaign to
      overturn the right of parents to choose among competing schools,
      public and private, for the best education for their children.

      In balloting more important to the nation than most of next year's
      elections will be, Utahans next week will decide by referendum
      whether to retain or jettison the nation's broadest school choice
      program. Passed last February, the Parent Choice in Education Act
      would make a voucher available to any public school child who
      transfers to a private school, and to current private school children
      from low-income families. Opponents of school choice reflexively
      rushed to force a referendum on the new law, which is suspended
      pending the vote.

      The vouchers would vary in value from $500 to $3,000, depending on
      household income. The teachers unions' usual argument against school
      choice programs is that they drain money from public education. But
      the vouchers are funded by general revenues, not the two sources of
      public school funds, which are local property taxes and the Uniform
      School Fund. And every Utah voucher increases funds available for
      public education. Here is how:

      Utah spends more than $7,500 per public school pupil ($3,000 more
      than the average private school tuition). The average voucher will be
      for less than $2,000. So every voucher that is used -- by parents
      willing to receive $2,000 rather than $7,500 of government support
      for the education of their child -- will save Utah taxpayers an
      average of $5,500. And because the vouchers are paid from general
      revenues, the departed pupil's $7,500 stays in the public school

      Furthermore, booming Utah, which has about 540,000 public school
      pupils and the nation's largest class sizes, expects to have at least
      150,000 more than that a decade from now. By empowering parents to
      choose private alternatives, the voucher program will save Utah
      taxpayers millions of dollars in school construction expenses.

      Opponents of school choice argue that it will produce less racially
      and socially diverse schools. But because students are assigned to
      public schools based on where they live, and because residential
      patterns reflect income, most of Utah's public schools are either
      mostly wealthy and white or mostly nonwealthy and nonwhite. Utah's
      Office of Education reports that the state's private schools -- which
      are operating one-third below full enrollment -- have a higher
      percentage of nonwhites than do public schools.

      The voucher program will enable demand for private schools to match
      the supply. A privately funded scholarship program, Children First
      Utah, for low-income pupils can support only 15 percent of
      applicants. Although most of the total value of the new voucher
      program will go to low-income families, the program amounts to a
      reduced government subsidy for such families -- at most $3,000 rather
      than more than $7,500 per pupil.

      Public filings showed that by September the National Education
      Association, the megalobbyist for the public education near-monopoly,
      had already spent $1.5 million to support repeal of the voucher
      program. The Wall Street Journal reports that the NEA has approved
      expenditures of up to $3 million. Public filings in September showed
      that teachers unions in Maine, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming had
      contributed to the fight against choice. Probably other states'
      unions will be identified in the next reports.

      Intellectually bankrupt but flush with cash, the teachers unions
      continue to push their threadbare arguments, undeterred by the fact
      that Utah's vouchers will increase per-pupil spending and will lower
      class sizes in public schools. Why the perverse perseverance? There
      are two large, banal reasons -- fear of competition and desire for
      the maximum number of dues-paying public school teachers.

      Although Utah is among the reddest of states -- the most emphatically
      Republican in six of the last eight presidential elections -- it is
      among the most supportive states regarding public education: It has
      the fifth-highest proportion of K through 12 students in public
      schools. (Even its home-schooled children outnumber the children in
      private schools.) Nevertheless, on Tuesday Utah voters can strike a
      reverberating blow against the idea that education should remain the
      most important sector of American life shielded from the improving
      force of competition.

      What will defenders of that idea -- former liberals, now known as
      progressives -- call themselves next? Surely not "pro-choice."

      (c) 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

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