Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's "School Choice" For, Anyway?

The 'school choice' program is about to become very interesting.

Originally, the program was sold as an emancipation from the Massa's plantation. 'Massa' was (and still is) the Milwaukee Public Schools/Milwaukee Teachers' Association combine of incompetence, bureaucracy, and greed. You can argue that the bureaucracy caused the incompetence, and that 'greed' isn't the middle name of MTA--but you can't argue that the plantation generally doesn't suck, because it does. You can ask the teachers, the parents, the principals, the students--ask anyone. They'll tell you.

The "choice" program set the kids free.

The question now is: "free for what and whom"?

There are two basic types of "choice" schools (if one ignores the charlatans and hucksters.) The first type is the religious ones: Messmer, St. Anthony's, Milwaukee Lutheran, St Joan Antida, Believers in Christ Academy (etc.) The second type is the 'academics' schools: the Montessoris, the Waldorf school, the "technical" schools, etc. Some of them are 'both/and', such as Marquette High and Notre Dame. The 'religious' schools do not demand that choice students are members of their religious denomination, but non-believers don't get a 'free pass' from religious training, either.

OK. So what?

Along comes Governor Walker. He proposes to set ALL the captives free by eliminating the 'cap' on total choice-school enrollment, eliminating the City residency requirement, and eliminating the income restrictions. For practical purposes that means that if you live in Milwaukee County, you can send your kid(s) to a choice school--with a check from the State--no matter how much you earn.

(Let's remember that the money for "choice" comes from taxpayers--that is, exactly the people who Walker proposes to let use the system.)

This draws fire from a couple of interest groups: Hispanic (D) leggies, Black (D) leggies, and certain Republicans, yet to be named.

The interest groups here tell us that there are two different motivations. The blacks and hispanics--Democrats--are desperately trying to maintain their own fiefdoms of union voters, so they're playing the race cards. They realize that more choice = less public schools = less union teachers. That's "less votes for us" in the end.

The Republicans just don't like all those religious types. They're 'country club' folk--the Rockefeller/GHWBush/Christie Whitman cabal. Catholics are not welcome, and for that matter, Lutherans who actually believe all their doctrine aren't, either.

Strange bedfellows, eh?

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