Saturday, March 1, 2008

choice for me, but not for the poor

One of the most annoying aspects of the "school choice" debate is that its opponents often practice "choice" for their own children.

For example, public school teachers are more than twice as likely to send their own children to private schools. This is akin to workers at Ford being offered a free Ford-- and declining, in order to pay full price for a Toyota. (Not all teachers oppose "school choice", but their bargaining agents-- labor unions/cartels-- obviously do.)

Likewise, it's been long-reported that members of the U.S. Congress do the same thing. Here, Evan Feinberg provides an update-- with results of a 2007 Heritage Foundation survey.

Key findings:

-11.5 percent of American stu­dents attend private schools, but 37 percent of Representatives and 45 per­cent of Senators responded that they had sent their children to private school

-37 percent of House Democrats have prac­ticed school choice, but 96 percent of Democrats who practiced school choice voted against the voucher program.

-52 percent of Congressional Black Cau­cus members and 38 percent of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members sent at least one child to private school

-Mem­bers of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who represent populations that have fared poorly academically in public schools and that stand to benefit the most from educational options, showed particularly high rates of practicing school choice.

Given their history with labor unions, it is odd that members of racial minorities would feel beholden to unions.

Aside from the hypocrisy and the attachment to a special interest group at the expense of equity and efficiency, here's the policy punchline:

-Since 2001, Congress has considered multiple initiatives to expand parental choice in education. In 2001, the House voted down an amendment that would have given scholarships to students attending low-performing or dangerous public schools...The Senate rejected a pilot program to pro­vide scholarships to low-income students...Based on the 2003 survey, each of these amend­ments would have passed if Members who exer­cised school choice for their own children had voted in favor of the school choice initiatives.

Assuming that they're all opposed to Pell Grants for elementary and secondary students, it'd be interesting to know how the children of the C-J editorialists are (or have been) educated.

Of course, Jefferson County is quite a bit different from the norm-- with its (de)segregation efforts and its allowance of (some) choice between public schools. But it'd be particularly disturbing to learn that their kids went to private schools.

And optimally, if the white editorialists were to live up to their public policy positions, they would have sent their high school kids to Central-- so that additional African-American children would have been allowed to attend that school (and they would have been more likely to preserve the old [de]segregation plan they favored).


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