11.12.2013 0

Alternative education threatens the left

Brooklyn_Bridge_MarchBy Tom Toth

In his campaign to become the first democrat in 20 years to be elected mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio confidently took aim at the city’s wealthy for causing the plight of the city’s poor, making income inequality the foundation of his campaign. He painted himself as the advocate of the impoverished, willing and ready to tax the city’s rich for the sake of the poor in a progressive show of force. For de Blasio the campaign was a success and he pronounced in his victory speech that New York had chosen a “progressive path.”

That path, however, is never a victory for those he claimed to champion.

Before the city’s mayoral election, thousands marched over the Brooklyn Bridge in a highly-overlooked statement of support for the city’s charter school system. New York City has maintained a remarkably fast-growing and successful charter school network that accepts public funding for tuition while maintaining more freedom to make personnel and curriculum decisions than public schools. Charter schools and other alternative education programs put incentive behind success for the student, not maximizing teacher union dues. These educational institutions offer hope and an alternative to families forced to send their children to failing schools because of their zip code.

Despite the program’s success and widespread popularity, Bill de Blasio is outspoken about his opposition to charters. Ironically, de Blasio’s attacking the charters through fees and increased taxation, the same tool he’s using to narrow the income gap and allegedly help the poor. Two-thirds of the city’s charter schools meet on city property, receiving basic maintenance from the city and operating rent-free, offering an estimated savings of $2,400 per student. De Blasio’s intentions to end the rent-free policies for many or all of the city’s 183 charter schools cut the knees from under thousands of educators who use the taxpayer’s education dollars to actually offer decent education to economically disadvantaged children.

New York is only one of many regional charter networks under attack from progressives relentlessly fighting alternative education in the United States. Mere weeks ago, the Eric Holder-led Department of Justice (DoJ) filed suit against a similar state-wide voucher program in Louisiana. Why? Because by helping a “disproportionate” amount of minority students in families living below 250 percent of the poverty line (to date, about 90 percent of those taking advantage of the vouchers in Louisiana are African-American), they are allegedly violating federal desegregation orders from the 1960s. All the while, Louisiana standardized testing results show that students attending charters have higher reading and math competencies at the equivalent of 50 and 65 additional days of learning, respectively.

Tactics like these from New York and the DoJ reek of desperation. Progressives are frantically seizing any foothold available to quell the advance of alternative education, especially those that aim to aid children in impoverished regions. This effort has unveiled telling trends from the left.

First, teachers unions lose money every time a family takes the opportunity to reassign the responsibility of educating their child from a public school. These unions, led by the powerful National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, donate millions to political campaigns every year, 95 percent of which go to Democrats. The obvious conflict then falls into the battle between uninhibited teacher union growth versus non-unionized alternative school growth. Receiving zero campaign dollars from  poor students given alternative education options, the trending political allegiance with unions makes sense. Therefore, the standard Democrat education solution: without condition, throw more money to teachers unions in failing schools and hope for different results.

Second, progressives show no willingness whatsoever to use alternative education as an engine to drive upward economic mobility for those born into poverty. De Blasio is only the latest to lambast income inequality; speeches citing a “tale of two cities” and promising more welfare for the poor reliant on the government are hollow rhetoric if there are no means by which the poor can economically transcend poverty into gainful employment and self-reliance.

In Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous final speech before the British House of Commons, she rightly challenged liberals concerned only with income inequality that they “would rather the poor are poorer, provided the rich are less rich.” The left’s education policy only proves these words true. Instead of providing the means for the poor to improve their economic condition and quality of life, liberals advocate policies that keep the poor in poverty to be promised endless government welfare benefits with dollars taken from others–all in exchange for votes.

Protecting teachers unions ensures consistent campaign funding. Promising welfare enhancement provides votes from those stuck in poverty. At the end of the day, the rich elected progressive wins and the uneducated poor lose.

Brooklyn_Bridge_March2Alternative education works, it’s cost-effective, it’s fair, and the left knows it very well. Those thousands marching across the Brooklyn Bridge from the poorer of de Blasio’s “two cities” represent liberals’ most dangerous political threat: the poor that have tasted opportunity and can’t shake the American dream of self-sufficiency and a better future for their children. Thus alternative education is in the crosshairs.

Author’s Note: The Department of Justice has stated that it will discontinue its lawsuit against Louisiana’s voucher program as of 11/18/2013, but will reportedly force the state to report voucher use by race to the DOJ on an annual basis. Gov. Bobby Jindal has accused the federal agency of changing coarse to kill the voucher program with “red tape.”

Tom Toth is the Social Media Director for Americans for Limited Government.

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