Vouchers Redux: The Rhetoric and the Consequences

bullhornSurely, if you’re anything like me (don’t admit it if you are!), you must be confronting the idea and fact of school voucher programs from rhetorical and ideological perspectives on offer in the news media and as promulgated via advocacy campaigns spearheaded and driven by “public policy” foundations.

In other words, the propaganda is pretty deep by now.  As I’ve been using “propaganda” pretty constantly in Errant posts let’s just be clear about it’s meaning.  This general dictionary definition will serve:

The organized dissemination of information, allegations, etc, to assist or damage the cause of a government, movement, etc.

It also gives the word’s origin as being one of “propagating the faith”.  So, basically, anything goes in order to propagate a “faith” or influence opinion on a particular issue (or group of related issues).  No mention of “fact” or “truth” or “integrity”…oh well.  Plus, I’m sure you’re aware by now that it is really an attempt at public deception more than anything else and has led to, in my estimation, the near ubiquitous TRUTH that this society (USA) privileges the LIE above all other things.

The first thing I’d like to ask you to think about is, are there any Left or Liberal Democratic “Public Policy” Foundations that you can name?  And if so, what information have they propagated that to your knowledge might be called “propaganda?” Now, I’m aware of the Center for Public Integrity and I praise its work.  Do you know of others?  But notice how often we hear from or read reports commissioned by American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, The Brookings Institute, The CATO Institute, and it seems like every state has its own “public policy” foundation and it seems almost always to lean to the business agenda side.*  Two ready examples are The Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.  There is even a “Free Market” foundation instigated by Milton Friedman (and his wife because Family is their symbol) called the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (and this is the “think tank” that promulgates voucher propaganda).  (Please see additional links at the end of this post.)  I suppose, maybe back in the 50s (?), you might have asserted that Universities offered a “left” agenda for policy persuasion.  I can’t see that this is the case any longer.  But hey, make the case and challenge me.**

What prompted me to want to discuss the “rhetoric” of propaganda were two items in our local paper, but I could pull examples of “education propaganda” at random from “news” sources.  One item from today is an AP story titled “Vouchers prompt thousands to change schools” which it should be noted was run in the Business section. The other item was the Sunday column by George Will (Courts finding voucher programs ‘neutral’ on religion) that, sadly, our local paper sees fit to inflict its readership.  Now, you may stop me already to claim a bias in my response.  Well, yes, I have one: I am against obvious prevarication and “fact free” assertions by major media entertainment scribes–ie, the career of George Will.

The AP story (which can be read in full without a subscription here) offers some facts–no ideology as far as I can tell.  Even the quoted officials only offer comments that are factual.  For example, here are some facts:

“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools,” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association…

Nearly 70 percent of the vouchers approved statewide are for students opting to attend Catholic schools, according to figures provided to the Associated Press by the five dioceses in Indiana. The majority are in the urban areas of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary, where many public schools have long struggled….

John West, an attorney for a group suing to stop the Indiana program, said during a hearing on the issue that only six of the 240 schools that have signed up for the program are secular…

Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend is among those institutions reaping the benefits. Just two years ago, it was threatened with closure by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend….The enrollment boom has forced the school to hire three more teachers. It’s also allowed all but the seventh and eighth grades to be separated into single classes. In years past, the school has combined grade levels because of low enrollment.

Until Indiana started its program, most voucher systems were limited to poor students, those in failing schools or those with special needs. But Indiana’s is significantly larger, offering money to students from middle-class homes and solid school districts…

That demand comes at a price to public schools, which say the voucher program siphons off money they need….The South Bend district expects to lose $1.3 million in funding if all the students who have signed up for vouchers leave.

None of that is ideological in presentation, and it makes the true consequences of the state’s voucher program fairly clear (though I’m sure there are many other consequences, they are not apparent in this piece): 1) Catholic schools are the major beneficiary of the state’s voucher program; 2) These schools are primarily located in urban communities beset by poverty and so their public schools have been underfunded; 3) Public schools are required to be secular, only 6 or less than 3%, of the private schools approved for the program are secular; 4) It seems we might call this a Religious Works program as this funding is bringing employment opportunity to the Catholic schools, 5) Opening the voucher program up gives the lie to the assertion that vouchers are to help those who are being “disadvantaged” by the public system’s failing schools.***  And finally, 6) loss of funding for public schools will be real and have serious consequences.

Now, let’s move with alacrity (that’s a bit of a joke at my own expense, y’all) to the “editorial” by George Will.  Here is a giant pile of Will using a ruling by a Douglas County, Colorado judge to halt a voucher program.  This report from the Colorado Springs Gazette will supply some background.  But note that like the Indiana program, these redistribution programs are always labeled “Choice” programs.  I will offer a “running” commentary.

But Douglas County’s scholarship program is religiously neutral, enabling families to choose whatever school best suits their children.

How does one claim or characterize this program as “neutral”?  Will doesn’t say, but one supposes it’s because, ostensibly, parents could choose a secular program–note that there are 6 options so far in Indiana.  But thought the “choice” might BARELY be described as “neutral” the program has privileged a system PREPARED to offer those “choices”: in other words, the parochial schools were ready to hand for this transfer of wealth and educational charge.

Prudently, opponents of the program do not claim that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s proscription of “establishment” of religion. In 2002, the Supreme Court, considering an Ohio program legally indistinguishable from Douglas County’s, said the Constitution is not violated by a scholarship plan that is “neutral with respect to religion” and involves parents directing government aid to schools by their “own genuine and independent private choice.” The Wisconsin Supreme Court, ruling on a similar school choice program in Milwaukee, cited the U.S. Supreme Court: “The crucial question is not whether some benefit accrues to a religious institution as a consequence of the legislative program, but whether its principal or primary effect advances religion.”

This is of course risible and disingenuous.  What is the “principal or primary effect” of giving parents other parents’ money to fund their religious schools?  Does that not advance religion?  If you don’t think it does please let me know how not.  It’s as if we are to believe that legislatures and administrations, when devising these programs, have not already understood the consequences.  And it is a fallacy that the SCOTUS has made a constitutional argument.  There is a spirit and a letter to the law and this clearly violates both.

The judge ruled against Douglas County at the behest of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is indiscriminately opposed to any public money reaching any religious institution in any way, and by others eager to protect public schools from competition.

This sentence is priceless!  The judge ruled at the “behest” of the ACLU–that means “at the command”; the ACLU “indiscriminately” opposes public money reaching religious institutions.  That is a wonderful use of “indiscriminately” as if it’s the ACLU that discriminates against people NOT religious institutions who require, for full membership privileges, belief in their dogma and doctrine.  The ACLU is in fact “indiscriminately” opposed to discrimination which is what PRIVATE and in particular religious education is all about.

School choice usually is sought by poor parents victimized [come on!] by failing schools in inner cities. [see *** below]

Can you see it?  Over in that dark alley lurks the inner city failing school about to murder, rape, and sodomize poor parents.  But here is the kicker, folks, the real truth.

Douglas County’s embrace of choice is notable because the median household income here is $99,522 and only 1.9 percent of families are below the poverty line. The county opted for choice because a few years ago conservatives were elected to the school board, and conservatives are pro-choice about most things — owning guns, driving SUVs, using incandescent light bulbs, etc. — other than killing pre-born babies. Liberals are pro-choice mostly about the latter.

That is wildly shocking to me in it’s idiocy but further it tells ONE truth–HOW this crap has been happening over the last several years.  Will has indicated what has come to the fore as a major tactic of the Business Classes in this fight for “ideological” supremacy.  Think tanks and Foundations have been quietly and stealthily putting “right-minded” adherents into positions of power and management over the last 40+ years so that when the time came there would be an infrastructure in place to push through all these very radical changes.  Here’s a case in point from The Texas Tribune detailing the way a prominent businessman went quietly about his work of seeding change.

What makes Leininger one of the most powerful people in Texas politics is less the amount of money he has given over the years than the broad reach of his spending and his commitment to a conservative agenda. By pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the previously ignored State Board of Education races, he turned an obscure committee of retired teachers into an ideological hornet’s nest, whose debates over curriculum and textbook content have made national news. In addition to funding candidates personally, Leininger has launched several political action committees to support conservative judicial and legislative candidates and advocate for school vouchers. He has, moreover, established an entire politics and policy conglomerate in Texas. He founded and provided seed money for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an increasingly influential conservative think tank, in 1989. He has invested millions in private school voucher programs in San Antonio, the first of which he initiated in 1993

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. Some regard the state Republican party as an extension of his empire; its chair, Susan Weddington, is a former Kinetic Concepts employee, and the $475,000 Leininger donated to state party and caucus committees in the 2000 election cycle far exceeded the amount contributed by any other individual or organization in Texas, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

They are succeeding wonderfully.  My position is simply that there is NO evidence that what’s good for American “Business” is good for American citizens but that rather the history of the 20th and 21st Centuries tell the exact opposite story.  We have been and are being bled dry by the vampire class of the oligarchs.

Links and Notes:

Texas Public Policy Foundation; Indiana Policy Review Foundation; The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, The Brookings Institute, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

*I didn’t say “lean to the Right” as it seems clearer and clearer to me that the “business” agenda is NOT in the least Conservative though it plays fast and loose with a “social conservatism” in order to encourage local and popular adherents.

**The University agenda is now ideologically in lock-step with the Corporation.

*** This Pennsylvania study--really the only fairly clear one I could find–shows that voucher use is by those ALREADY in the private school system.  A few details:

• Only 7.6% of all vouchers will go to students from the 144 “worst” public schools.

• 65.3% of all vouchers will go to students already enrolled in private and religious schools.

• Only 9% of eligible students from the 144 “worst” public schools will be able to gain admission to a private or religious school and actually use their voucher. The annual cost will be $50 million.

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