Monday, September 19, 2005

Tell me (yet) again it’s about the children

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:55 AM |  

Sou'wester Tip to the Center of the American Experiment.

Following the pattern of thier protest of Wal-Mart (which has donated over $15 million to Katrina relief plus merchandise contributions), the education establishment finds fault with the Administration's hurricane relief efforts.

From: Wehner, Peter H.
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2005 9:17 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Hurricane Katrina, School Choice, and Contemporary Liberalism

This weekend, both the New York Times (in an article by Michael Janofsky) and Washington Post (in an article by Nick Anderson) reported that the nation's two largest teachers' unions are harshly criticizing the Bush Administration's Hurricane Katrina relief plan because a key component -- payments to families with children in private and religious schools -- amounted to a "national voucher program." In the words of the Washington Post story, "the proposal ... would amount to the largest federal school voucher program ever, if enacted."

Here's the relevant part from the New York Times article:

"The budget request ... includes $488 million to compensate families with children in private schools, which critics said represented an effort by the Bush administration to initiate a favorite approach to school choice, the use of vouchers. More than 372,000 schoolchildren were displaced and are now enrolled in schools as far from the Gulf Coast as California and New England. The total includes about 61,000 who attend private schools in Louisiana, 50,000 in Roman Catholic schools. Under the plan, children in public and private schools would be regarded equally for aid purposes, with a spending cap of $7,500 per student. Senator Edward M. Kennedy ... said in a statement that he applauded President Bush's efforts to serve the educational needs of displaced children. 'But I am extremely disappointed that he has proposed providing this relief using such a politically charged approach,' Mr. Kennedy added. 'This is not the time for a partisan debate on vouchers.'"

This reaction underscores a couple of important points. First, the President's plan is an unprecedented effort to use conservative means to alleviate persistent poverty and help those in need. David Brooks is correct when he wrote in his column yesterday that we are seeing "Bushian conservatism" -- energetic but not domineering government that catalyzes other institutions and enhances individual initiative -- unfold.

Second, this criticism is a remarkable example of political ideology coming at the expense of human needs and the common good. As former Secretary of Education (and now Senator) Lamar Alexander put it, "Katrina didn't discriminate among children, and we shouldn't either." To deny tens of thousands of students the opportunity to attend schools similar to the kind they did before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region simply to maintain a monopoly on American education is indefensible -- and part of a great unmasking of contemporary liberalism.

The needs of children are taking a back seat to the desires of one of the core constituencies of the Democrat Party: education unions. It's not a pretty, or particularly humane, sight.
Were I strong Bush supporter, I'd be careful about pointing fingers when it comes to cases of ideology taking precedence over human needs and the common good, but in this case, the finger pointing is accurate and deserved.