Nevada Senator Jon Ensign has leaped into the debate over the District of Columbia’s school voucher program with both feet. Although not usually known in Congress for his interest in education, his interest in ideology is apparent justification for attempting to continue a completely failed private school subsidy program for the District as part of the 2009 Appropriations bill. His amendment would continue a supposed “pilot program” from 2003 pretty much indefinitely, and not even bother to require that schools be constructed safely or have qualified teachers. I know I’m being picky here.
School vouchers have been a certified scam since the first time any serious researcher examined their claimed “benefits”. The D.C. voucher program was examined twice by the Bush Department of Education and twice the studies showed no significant differences between voucher students and their peers in the public schools. In an even deeper analysis by the General Accounting Office, a few new problems surfaced. Some schools got tuition paid for by us taxpayers even though the schools actually charged no tuition. In one year, three of the 52 participating schools admitted that at least half of their teachers lacked even a bachelor’s degree. And, yes, only about 25 percent of the students even left public schools that had been determined to be “in need of improvement” (the ostensible reason to start the program in the first place). I know I’m being picky here.
This year an even more ridiculous argument has entered the debate. It centers on Sarah and Matt Parker, two students who with the aid of school vouchers, actually attend the Sidwell Friends school with the Obama daughters. Sidwell doesn’t exactly go out of its way to take in many voucher students since they make much more from wealthy self-pay parents who send their children there, but the Parkers are a start I suppose. Most of the students in the voucher program are attending schools which lack the ethereal academic standing of Sidwell. Now here is the argument that has been picked up by the Right. If the program is closed immediately (itself, a red herring, because even many anti-voucher legislators would in fact be willing to “grandfather” in existing students), the Parkers would not be in a position comparable to the Obama kids. You know, that much would be true.
Here’s where the “ridiculous” factor shows up. Most of the ideological zealots who are now repeating this line have never before thought that all people (or even all children) should be equally entitled to any product or service. Should the Parkers get a voucher for security guards, just like the Obama kids have Secret Service protection? Why should they have to drag themselves to some multiplex to see the latest Madea film when they could get a voucher to build a screening room in their home just like the theater at the White House? And, you know “swing set vouchers” would just be a step away. I know I’m being picky here.
Of course, I know that there is a profound difference between education and swing sets However, when truly “progressive” people talk about any kind of equality, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck argue we are a hair’s breadth from socialism! I wonder if they understand that is the direction that Senator Ensign and the supporters of his amendment are leading us. I hope they read this blog to know the real sources of our march toward social egalitarianism.