Monday, February 26, 2007

A mighty wind II

C'mon Spotty, you promised to tell us who or what the "mighty wind" was a week ago. You remember, when you told us the story about the hunter gatherer village?

What? Oh yes. Thanks for the reminder grasshopper. You will recall that Spot was writing about the continuing efforts to undermine public education in Minnesota. Nick Coleman had an insightful column about that recently:

Don Samuels has apologized for his words, but not his views. And he isn't likely to. For the Fifth Ward City Council member from Minneapolis who suggested burning down North High School [and which Nick also wrote about] is not just one man with an opinion.

He is a stalking horse for a movement that wants to torch public schools. It has gotten frighteningly close to its goal.

The Center of the American Experiment, a local conservative think tank, is renewing the push for school vouchers, and it tapped Samuels to endorse its position paper. In his foreword to the recent publication, Samuels again displays a flair for the dramatic, writing that he wonders "how many future murderers are in the first grade classes of the four elementary schools within a mile of my home?"

Is Don Samuels the mighty wind, Spotty?

No, he's pretty windy all right, but the mighty wind Spot has in mind is the Great Kahuna at the Center of the American Experiment, Mitch Pearlstein.

Didn't Katie used to work there, before she got her newspaper gig?

Yes, grasshopper that's right. Ol' Mitch has authored a new "study" that says school vouchers are "essential" to reducing the achievement gap between blacks and whites in Minnesota, which Mitch says are bigger here than anywhere else. And he claims that statistics back him up. This is the study for which Samuels wrote the forward. Mitch says this in the summation of a description of his "study":

For the life of me, I can't understand how any educator, politician, editorial writer, or anyone else can read all of this and not believe vouchers are worth at least a try.

Did you know, boys and girls, that Minnesota is also one of the most racially-segregated places in the country? Spot doesn't have a link for you right now, but it's true. Do you suppose that has anything to do with it? Mitch doesn't say. There are probably a lot of other variables that Mitch doesn't control for either: class size, parental involvement, relative social and economic status of the families, family stability. Well, you get the idea.

Here's one of the best descriptions Spot has ever seen of school vouchers:

School voucher programs usher in a mind-boggling practical achievement. They take the answer that is public education and scramble it into 3 new problems: forcing the state to improperly promote religion by funding religious schools with taxpayer money, draining the public school system of much-needed resources, and bridling the religious freedom of church institutions with the inevitable strings of government funding. They're bad for the state, bad for children's education, and bad for the church.

Spot thanks Media Transparency for the link.

As Nick Coleman points out in his linked column:

Charter schools, funded with public funds, were supposed to help produce new teaching methodologies and education strategies. Other states limit their number. New York has a limit of 100. Iowa has a limit of 10. Minnesota has no limit. Today, we have 131 charter schools, with 23,600 students. At least 19 more charter schools are on the way.

How much is too much?

The largest sponsor of charter schools, Friends of Ascension, has ties to former state Republican chairman Bill Cooper, who has served on the group's board of directors. Friends of Ascension has 16 schools with 2,800 students (12 percent of charter school enrollment). Nor is Cooper the only former Republican Party chair to have found a keen interest in the inner city.

Former GOP chairman Ron Eibensteiner and his wife are the founders of KidsFirst Scholarships, which award privately funded vouchers to children (650 this year) to attend private schools. Those scholarships are funded by grants from right-wing billionaires such as Ted Forstmann and the late John Walton of the Walton Family Foundation. Critics such as the liberal People for the American Way point out an obvious motivation: By handing out private vouchers in the inner city, conservatives hope to create political momentum for state vouchers that will damage public schools.

Not to mention the teaching of evolutionary science.

But Mitch, and Sticks, and Katie say "No, we're just trying to help the poor little black children."

But maybe they are, Spotty!

Okay grasshopper, tell me this: tell me another issue on which the conservatives or the libertarians are on the side of poor people. Minimum wage? Worker safety? Economic justice in general? Power plant mercury emissions? Global warming (there are a couple of million people in Bangladesh alone who are going to be made homeless by rising sea levels)? Affirmative action?

You see, boys and girls, Mitch has a teensy credibility problem. He is simply unworthy of your trust.


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