By Joe Rutherford
“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” – Calvin Coolidge, responding to the 1919 Boston police strike
This oft-quoted line from the then-governor of Massachusetts might be updated to include “the public interest,” as well as public safety.
There are few matters of public interest greater than educating the next generation. Chicago public school teachers who went on strike Monday have struck against the public interest, placing self-interest in difficult economic times ahead of children.
But there is a way around the current impasse that doesn’t involve giving in to the union. It’s school choice.
The public school system is a virtual state monopoly inundated by many dictates from Washington and has been unable to consistently produce nearly enough well-rounded graduates capable of supporting themselves or contributing to the nation. Yet public school students, especially the poor and minorities, remain locked in failed schools so that Democratic politicians can seemingly reap the political benefits – and contributions – from teachers unions.
Politicians regularly campaign for more spending on education.
Indiana is one of many success stories. The state has just begun its second year of a voucher program. Parents can decide where to send their kids, whether to public, private secular, religious or charter schools. As World Magazine recently reported, “About 300 private, largely Christian schools in the state are accepting voucher students – and gaining a financial boost as they arrive.” So much else is working in Indiana under Gov. Mitch Daniels and a Republican legislature (with occasional help from some Democrats), it is unlikely the school voucher program will fail.
According to World Magazine, 10 states and the District of Columbia now offer a variety of school voucher options. In his 2010 fiscal year budget, President Obama attempted to end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which grants vouchers to low-income students so they can attend private schools, but after an outcry from parents and stinging editorials in Washington’s newspapers, he let the program proceed, at least until children already in the program had a chance to graduate.
“The president doesn’t believe that vouchers are a long-term answer to our educational problems and the challenges that face our public school system,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered in 2009. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Speaker John Boehner disagreed, fought for school choice and succeeded in reaching an agreement with the president to fully implement the D.C. voucher program. “For eight years, this scholarship program has empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children,” Boehner said in June.
This is a political advantage for Republicans as many African-American and Hispanic families are supportive of school choice. Most of these are Democratic voters, but nothing appeals to a parent more than safeguarding their children’s future. Mitt Romney and Republicans running for Congress should take note of the Chicago teachers strike and claim school choice as their own.
Readers may email Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.