The light traffic meant I had plenty of time to sit on my porch silently contemplating the night and watching rats scurry across the yard. I chased a few of them, especially after I got a big stick to flush them out of the underbrush. And speaking of flushing out rats...
George Will is writing his usual nonsense again about topics he knows nothing about. For Will, if the topic contains the keyword "Choice" or "Competition," it must mean "Good." So in this case he's writing about education, a topic about which he's so ignorant, but gosh he uses all the correct right-wing keywords: "near-monopoly," "anti-choice," "opponents of choice," "fear of competition," etc. It's really very tired.
Of course, he gives the game away when you realize he's mainly concerned with teacher unions. Will isn't concerned whatsoever with the poor downtrodden children forced into Dickensian workhouses that liberals and big bad teacher union bureaucrats call "public schools." These children don't exist in his world, because they aren't going to grow up to be little overprivileged bowtie wearing stuffed shirt prigs...his opinion of public education is so low that he imagines all the products of the teacher union enslaved schools will become the faceless trolls who take his plates away after dinner, hand him his drycleaning, and bag his groceries.
Like any shill for laissez-faire capitalism, Will's real bogeyman is unionization, and the specter of living labor getting together to meet dead accumulated Capital on even somewhat level terms terrifies him. Teacher unions just happen to be an especially easy target for him, since teachers are public sector employees. For some strange reason, Will believes the NEA (he generally attacks the NEA, probably because it's the larger of the two major teacher unions) should not look after the rights of its members, and more fantastically he somehow believes that the interests of teachers (the union membership) is somehow at odds with the interests of education. As if teachers are looking for ways to make schools fail.
Like most right wing critics of education, Will couldn't be bothered with actual facts or details about how schools work and curriculum gets set. Again, Will isn't concerned about the children in the schools or the idea of public education itself (for all its flaws, universal public education is anathema to Will's coterie of elitists, since it assumes that everyone -- not just the children of privilege -- deserve education and are capable of learning): he's interested only in dismantling the system that for all the scare tactics (beginning with Why Johnny Can't Read way back in the 1950's), actually works for most students (the job, of course, is to make it work it work for all, since public schools, unlike private schools, can't throw out anyone and everyone who might lower their test scores...).
This reactionary anti-union stance is why Will finds himself defending what he would otherwise deride as a "government handout" (Will is great at cherry-picking his anti-government stances, generally ignoring right wing entitlements and deriding the "Big Government" excesses of, let's say, funding for public education or healthcare for the poor). Here's Will explaining the Utah program that he's trying to defend:
Note the hyperbole that he leads with: this state-level ballot about a program that is very similar to programs that have been around a long time in other states (and the District) is more important than "most of next year's elections," which are at the national level, including for President. But that's typical Will. Will touts this government handout because it comes from the "general fund" and not from traditional sources of public education funding, therefore robbing the voucher opponents of the argument that it's taking funding from the public schools. So if you follow along, essentially Will is arguing that the $500 - $3000 vouchers are in addition to funds already allocated for education, and Utah's state expenditure of $7500 per pupil will remain intact. He uses this line to argue that the voucher program, and I quote, "every Utah voucher increases funds available for public education."
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.
In fact, he details the process. Follow carefully:
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 revenue, the departed pupil's $7,500 stays in the public school system.
OK, got that? Since Utah spends about $7500 per public school pupil, and the vouchers are worth on average $2000, then Utah saves $5500 per child using a voucher, but the $7500 per pupil doesn't go away. Did anyone else wonder at Will's deployment of the New Math? If the money stays in the system, you don't actually save that money and get to count it as savings to taxpayers, who by Will's admission are still paying the $7500 to the public school system...now in addition to the $2000 for the private school subsidizing voucher.
Am I missing something? Is he not claiming that the original $7500 that would have been there anyway is still there, and an additional $2000 is being paid out, yet somehow the taxpayers are saving $5500? As I said before, Will and education are not exactly familiar with one another...
To seal the deal (and I know you're bored by now), Will makes the argument that Utah's private schools "are operating one-third below full enrollment" and the vouchers will help fill them up. Isn't it funny when a free marketeer like Will starts arguing for subsidies because the market doesn't seem to work the way he wants it? Check it out:
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.
So replace "voucher program" with "subsidy" and you see what Will's aiming at. The private schools are underenrolled because they aren't seen as providing the value for their cost. Rather than make them "compete," as he wants with the public schools, Will wants the government to give them a handout, therefore allowing them to continue to overcharge their pupils. And he returns to his ridiculous, wrong even on the basis of his own evidence, argument about a reduced cost. He's already stated that the $7500 per pupil remains in the system, so we aren't looking at a "reduced government subsidy," but rather an increased subsidy (in fairness to Will, he does say "reduced government subsidy for such families," and technically he's correct: since the family is not in public school, they don't directly receive the subsidy; but he's either lying to the reader or simply too stupid to understand the difference between the individual family and the system as a whole when he argues that it's some sort of reduction in taxpayer burden).
Anyone read this far?