Why the Right Hates Public Education

by Barbara Miner

In an article about education, it’s appropriate to start with a pop quiz. Today’s question: Republican strategists want to privatize education because:
a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.

OK, I admit it, the answer’s obvious: all of the above. But in the debates over education policy, the Republican political agenda (see d and e) is often invisible.

Occasionally, Republican strategists let the cat out of the bag and admit that vouchers–which divert public dollars to private schools–are about politics, not education.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most influential Republican strategists in Washington, has long recognized the partisan value of vouchers, sometimes euphemistically referred to as “choice.” “School choice reaches right into the heart of the Democratic coalition and takes people out of it,” he said in a 1998 interview with Insight, the magazine of the conservative Washington Times.

Norquist and others see great political benefit in going after the teachers’ unions. During the last thirty years, as private sector unionism has declined, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) have grown in strength. Today, the 2.7 million-member NEA is the country’s largest union. The AFT has one million members, mostly in education but also in health care and the public sector.

While both teacher unions overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, conservatives especially hate the NEA. It is larger, more geographically diverse, with members in every Congressional district in the country, and more likely to push a liberal agenda that includes social issues such as gay rights.

As the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation complained this fall, the NEA is “the nation’s largest, most powerful, and most political union.”

The teacher unions back up their support for the Democratic Party with money and grassroots organization. After all, public schools exist in every municipality and county in the nation. Unlike manufacturing, teaching cannot be outsourced to Mexico, China, or Bangladesh.

In mainstream publications, conservatives tend to muffle their partisan antagonism toward teacher unions. Not so in conservative publications and documents.

The issue comes down to “a matter of power,” said Terry Moe, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and co-author of the book Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, in an interview with the Heartland Institute in Chicago this summer.

The NEA and AFT “have a lot of money for campaign contributions and for lobbying,” he said. “They also have a lot of electoral clout because they have many activists out in the trenches in every political district. . . . No other group can claim this kind of geographically uniform political activity. They are everywhere.”

School vouchers are a way to diminish that power. “School choice allows children and money to leave the system, and that means there will be fewer public teacher jobs, lower union membership, and lower dues,” Moe explains.

For those in the thick of the debate, it’s long been obvious that vouchers are an attack on teacher unions. Even Wisconsin State Representative Annette “Polly” Williams, an African American who helped start the Milwaukee voucher program, the country’s first, now admits as much. “The main motivation of some of the choice supporters was to weaken public education unions,” she wrote in a letter this summer to Governor Jim Doyle.

Eliminating public education may seem unAmerican. But a growing number of movement conservatives have signed a proclamation from the Alliance for the Separation of School and State that favors “ending government involvement in education.” Signatories include such Washington notables as David Boaz and Ed Crane of the Cato Institute; conservative author Dinesh D’Souza; Dean Clancy, who is an education policy analyst for House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert; and Howard Phillips, president of the Conservative Caucus.

Wisconsin State Representative Chris Sinicki, who was a Milwaukee School Board member when vouchers began in Milwaukee in 1990, says there is no doubt that vouchers “are a Republican strategy to take down public education and the unions. This is partisan politics, completely.”

Which brings us back to our pop quiz and, in particular, to Answer e: Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.

In the 2000 Presidential election, Bush garnered only 8 percent of the African American vote and about 35 percent of the Latino vote. (Overall, less than 10 percent of Bush’s votes came from minorities.) The following year, Republican strategist Matthew Dowd outlined a plan to boost African American support to 13-15 percent and Latino support to 38-40 percent for the 2004 election.

While universal vouchers remain the goal, for tactical reasons conservatives have wrapped vouchers in the mantle of concern for poor African Americans and Latinos. Indeed, voucher supporters are fond of calling school choice the new civil rights movement. This plays well not only with voters of color but also with liberal suburban whites who, while they may be leery of allowing significant numbers of minorities into their schools, nonetheless support the concept of equal rights for all.

Conservatives and their front groups in the African American and Latino communities have not been shy about comparing voucher opponents to Southern segregationists. During the Congressional push for vouchers in Washington, D.C., this fall, groups such as D.C. Parents for School Choice launched a particularly vicious campaign against prominent Democrats. “Forty years ago, politicians like George Wallace stood in the doors of good schools trying to prevent poor black children from getting in,” one ad said, comparing voucher opponents like Senator Edward Kennedy to Wallace.

Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, was vague in explaining to the Washington community newspaper The Common Denominator how her group financed the ads. She did admit that over the years her group had received money from the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and Children First America–all prominent conservative organizations supporting vouchers. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group, provided media support. So did Audrey Mullen, a signer of the Separation of School and State proclamation.

Even if Republicans fail to woo African Americans and Latinos to the Republican Party, they may dampen African American and Latino voter turnout–a neutralization strategy, as it were.

“The strategy is to get young black people not to vote,” says Michael Charney, editor of The Critique, the newspaper of the teachers’ union in Cleveland, which also has a voucher program. “These radio commercials are aimed at the hip-hop generation. The goal is to discredit Democrats and breed cynicism.”

The commercials, he continues, “are part of a conscious strategy by the most advanced elements in the electoral Republican machine. It’s smart from their view, even if it is disgusting.”

David Sheridan, an analyst for the NEA, agrees it will be tough for the Republicans to win over African American voters. “But I think it’s different with the Hispanic audience,” he says. “I think they see this as a major effort to get more Hispanic voters into the Republican camp.”

The Republican emphasis on vouchers runs the risk of alienating moderate Republicans who support public education. Such support is strong not only in rural areas where public schools are a vital part of the community and private schools are few, but also in suburban communities with strong, well-funded public schools.

Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, cautions his Republican colleagues that they shouldn’t even use the word “vouchers,” which he refers to as “the deadly V-word.”

“In my state, it’s a pretty divisive word,” he warned them in a speech on the Senate floor this fall.

But that won’t stop conservatives like Norquist, who view vouchers as a key ingredient in their effort to “downsize” government services. “The problem is that the federal government hands out billions of dollars, and people will lie, cheat, steal, or bribe to get it,” Norquist said in an interview with Reasononline, the website of the libertarian Reason Foundation. “If you have a big cake, and you put it under the sink and then you wonder why the cockroaches are in your kitchen, I don’t think any sprays or blocking the holes in the walls are going to get rid of the cockroaches. You’ve got to throw the cake in the trash so that the cockroaches don’t have something to come for.”

The American people do not view public schoolteachers and students as cockroaches. The overwhelming majority strongly support public schools. They don’t want them dismantled; they just want them to work better.

The attack by Norquist and his ilk is nothing less than a highly partisan attempt to undermine teacher unions and the Democratic Party, destroying our American tradition of public education in the process.

— Barbara Miner is a Milwaukee-based journalist specializing in education. via

Diamonds, Gemstones, Lumps of Coal – Another Strike at the Dragon’s Soul

This news to China is another diamond of the moral lessons from God or pure living, or Buddha himself. The way we live, is the way we die. Buddha had a following not because what he said, but how he lived such a holy serene life as no other holy man of his time. And while this diamond of a gentle man lived a simple life, and like Socrates in the west, merely answer questions with a question, and go inside his bliss.

Which what another diamond of a human being has just done, and informed the world, and his host China, he may miss th parade. For he fears for his health if in his race he proceeds, for he is long distance runner, for which lung power much needs. Of all of the athletes, the long race will be won, by he who runs fastest, and sucks air through his lungs.

However, in Beijing, each visit, he fears for his life. For the air is so filthy many have masks on their faces as day seems like twilight. And for this champion to win, he must train there with might, to know the terrain, every up and down site. And by the time of the races, and parades and speeches now complete; he is not sure if he would have lungs left to stand on his feet.

So on Olympics and torches like the Disney Parade, with lights and sights to marvel, all through each day. Are we to use candles, or masks and a lamp, to watch each runner still standing cough over that ramp? When the best mice from heaven start leaving the boat, it is time for a make over, or swamp in the moat. The Forbidden Palace is bloated, and very confused. How to get rich, be Communist, not confused by the rules.

Poor Communist China, on it’s way to get rich, still keeps controls like a female with puppies, our snarling great bitch. Take Tibet, and Sudan for oil. Tibetans who make trouble could be shipped to Darfur, in exchange for that oil. Gone Tibetan, such trouble, now peopled with Hans. Hans is also Chinese, as German, but who could so tell? 1939 soldiers named Hans in helmets marched from Paris to Moscow. Times change, people earn to love and forgive. French now hug Germans: how grown up is that?

Except up in Tibet. Here, the 2008 Hans are more golden and they come from the coast. And they take over Tibet, each Han soldier can boast. Bump baton upon skull of Tibetan in robes. Only way to teach them, our great culture here in droves.

Meanwhile, back in Beijing, they wonder if they were to close down the coal burning factories around Beijing as long as guests were in town. It could be as in America in that horrible three days after 9/11 when all air traffic was shut down. The skies of America became blue. Not every other coal burning factory and all our exhaust SUV could make the sky gray. We may not have noticed, but science sure did. Meanwhile a billion Chinese want to fly to Rome for the fall.

And that kerosine driven airplane creates a fake heavenly sky as it leaves a jet trail wover a clear blue sky. That serene implication of that white cloud is a lie. It is kerosine spittle, that when it rains, falls on you and I. So I think science would agree with this stink: we might be more health by far, if they left the toilets open to fall. At least good for the gardens, we can handle crap as we get it at work. But if they could find a way to put a diaper on the rear of that jet engine air bus, they could stop it from wet potties, of kerosine onto us.

Take the new jet super trains that, like veins through our bodies, encircle the earth. Get the coal dust technology information to all. And until jets can get off kerosine, take the clean train, and marvel at the Great Wall of China, under blue skies, on your way to Rome. So fascinating, as with the French jet on rails, keep your eye on the castle in the distance.

For if you look down, you are soon sick and dizzy. You are flying. At ground level. Those whizzing bushes by the track give you more information than you need, for an enjoyable quick tram trip from London to Delhi, and then on to Seattle and New York. But if you do happen to walk outside in the air, wash your hair, take care, the airplanes have been out there. Not a diamond among them, flying kerosine lumps of coal, being rude on us down there.

Raindrops of kerosine are falling on my head, but I’m not dead, so what do I care? Nobodies there, so keep on rolling through the sky, until we all die, those coal burning lamps are coming back, Jack, you go with the flow, what do you know, it’s a blazing good show, the hotter it gets the less that you know. And us red ants seek black ants where ever they go. Unforgiving Gods or Allahs brought to us in anger and hate. If only, if only, or is hope way too late? No. God is not finished with one life human yet.

Until we can be wise like Buddha, whose wise followers were surely those three, who allowed God to allow them to be a the birth of Christ Jesus. Buddha’s last day among life, was in his mid eighties, for those days a great age. He and his loved ones all enjoyed a simple meal, they meditated together until Buddha was gone. His meditation took him to Heaven, Nirvana, as they say. In bliss and harmony, golden rules in full play.

Derek Dashwood enjoys the combining of science into the humanities to measure politics and use and wise use of power and how it is shown at It’s Her Diamond, Let Her Pick

Healthy Confusion?

I am a resident of New York State, but if someone were to ask which state I live in, I would reply that I live in a “state of mental confusion.”

Mental confusion may sometimes be healthy, if it leads to questioning, enquiry and growth of wisdom. Perhaps that is why one of the wisest men, a sage from China was named Confused, Confuse Us or something similar, I am not sure. Talking about health, nowadays I am deluged with so much information about health matters that I do not know what to believe and what to dismiss, so I am totally contra-fused, excuse me, confused.

Our parents told us to play outside and breathe deeply; inhale a lot of oxygen, which was supposed to be good for health. Now however, when I go to the supermarket, almost every package label proudly proclaims that the food is high in anti-oxidants. Won’t an anti-oxidant reduce the oxygen in my blood and be toxic? I find this very contradictory and contra-fusing, sorry, confusing.

Also, when we were children, anyone who looked well nourished was referred to as healthy, while anyone who was slightly built was told to go and put some meat on their bones. This too has changed completely, anyone who does not look starved is told to reduce their weight. Similarly, we are constantly admonished to eat less fatty foods, since they contain cholesterol- but then we are told that some cholesterols are good while others are bad for us.

Ditto for sunlight; I used to think that exposing my skin to sunlight was very healthy- it helped synthesize Vitamin D and promoted healthy bones. Now, however it seems that sunlight has UV radiation which causes skin cancer and I am urged to protect myself with a sun blocker like SPF 15 or something similar. In a similar vein, we are often told not to use certain aerosols so as to preserve the ozone layer but when the ozone level is high we are told not to walk outside. So is ozone healthy for us or unhealthy?

Similarly, I used to believe that alcohol would ruin my liver, scramble my brain and lead to an early demise. However, I am now told that drinking alcohol daily, especially wine, prevents heart attacks. This had me confused for a while until I realized that if you die young from cirrhosis of the liver, you cannot die from a heart attack.

Enough of this unhealthy confusion, I think I will take a walk and clear my head, but wait- I better check the ozone levels, the air quality and the UV index, put on my orange reflectors and a nose mask before I step out of the house.

Rohit Khera

Made in China – Cheap and Deadly

If it wasn’t for the paper place-mat at my favorite Chinese Restaurant and the recall of almost 20 million items made in China I would never have known that 2007 was the year of the pig. The American middle class is more dependent on cheap Chinese made products than we are on Saudi oil. During this holiday season Americans will help fatten the wallets of companies like Mattel who was forced to recall almost 20 million items made in China in 2007 because of lead paint on toy cars and tiny magnets that could be deadly if swallowed. Lead paint was also found in 844,000 Barbie accessories and toys with the Sesame Street brand. Barbie? Sesame Street? Is anything sacred? These toys are American institutions. Watching your 2 year old suck on the neck of a decapitated Barbie is every Americans right. You think Oscar is grouchy now?

As if poisoning our kids wasn’t enough China also went after our pets. Pet food makers recalled more than 60 million cans of dog food made in China laced with tainted melamine in wheat gluten. Now I know that in China dogs are a mans best food but people in the humane world cherish their dogs and cats. The pet food scandal has prompted many Americans to actually read the labels of what they are feeding their pets. Organic pet food made in America has experienced a huge growth in sales. Hopefully some day packs of wild dogs will roam the empty streets of Beijing.

Besides killing our pets and young children China also wants to help our teenagers to look better and feel better by supplying them with steroids, human growth hormones, and other bodybuilding drugs. A huge underground distribution network was traced to 37 companies in China.

Nike recalled 235,000 football helmets because the chin cup has a defective strap and caused at least two concussions and a broken nose. Okay, now they’ve gone too far! Messing with football is almost like messing with baseball. Sure supplying baseball and football players with steroids is bad but sabotaging the equipment that protects the drug-addicted overpaid prima-donna professional athletes we idolize is stepping over the goal line. Who is going to endorse toothpaste made in China laced with ethylene glycol which is widely use as auto antifreeze? Who will be on Chinese-made lunch boxes containing lead that were given away by the California Department of Public Health to promote healthy eating habits among American children?

With pressure from the American government the Chinese government finally responded. On July 10, 2007 Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China’s State Food And Drug Administration was executed by shooting. Obviously something must have been lost in translation when President Bush told the Chinese premier that, “Something must be done” which was mistaken for “shoot him with a gun”. After his execution he was charged with taking bribes from various firms in exchange for state licenses related to product safety. He was found guilty and re-executed.

The trade agreement with China is grossly one sided. The United States is not producing goods outside of very few high tech areas and Americans continue to spend on cheaply made Chinese products.

Every time I look at the label of something that I have bought it always seems to be made in China. “Made in America” has almost become extinct. I recently called my congressman to complain but the call was outsourced to India. I got a nice guy named Davesh who was very sympathetic and referred to me as “Buddy”. Only in America. The phrase “Only in America” was made in China.

Richard Raciti
http://edgewisdom.wordpress.com/