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GOP Must Make School Vouchers a Civil Rights Issue

In Best Interest of the Child, children legal status, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Domestic Relations, education, Freedom, Homeschool, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment on September 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Parents should have the first and last choice of where their children go to school.   It is time to make sure the school teacher’s union, who have one interest only: keeping their jobs.  They need to back off.  Parents need to urge their congressman to support H.J.R. 42 The Parental Rights Amendment in Congress to make Parental Rights a constitutional protected right. – Parental Rights

When one-off events catch public officials flat-footed, the public often shows some understanding.

The start of the school year, however, and the need to schedule classes for students, are as predictable as August.  To have this annual exercise result in chaos and delay for 8,000 high school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland is a scandal and disgrace.

As reported at length by the Washington Post, the year began for 8,000 of the county’s 41,000 high school students without schedules.  Five days, later, 1,300 were still in limbo. It really is difficult to comprehend the scale of this ineptitude.  As one student explained on a Facebook page devoted to the matter:

We basically are going 2 school 4 no point wut so ever…we are wasting time going 2 are fake teachers and fake classes, doing fake work or nothing at all, for nothing at all.

When 20 percent of the county’s high school students are herded into cafeterias and gymnasiums, with teachers engaged in crowd control because students have no classes to attend, the essential functions of local government have broken down.

The greater scandal here is that this failure has almost certainly had an adverse impact on black students.  Prince George’s County may be home to the largest black middle class in the country, but among those high school students who had the start of their high school year ruined by administrative ineptitude, many were minority students who needed those extra few days of instruction and could ill afford thumb twiddling and busy work.

A collapse of governing responsibility, one with civil rights implications, just miles from the nation’s capitol — but will anyone at the federal level propose to do much about it?  We know that Democrats won’t cross the teachers’ unions.  What about Republicans?  Would they use this as an opportunity to promote vouchers for any of these students, betrayed by their school system?

Republicans are supporters of school vouchers as an economic concept. By enhancing parental choice and challenging the unions, they bring competition to the public school monopoly and improve outputs for the parent and child consumers.  And Republicans support state reforms and federal reform in the District of Columbia.

But where are the conservative conviction politicians in Washington who will use this situation to loudly demand justice, and promote school vouchers, for the poor kids in P.G. County?  As many have noted, the lack of access to a quality education is a civil rights issue, one that calls out for vouchers as an emergency measure for kids stuck in failing schools.  For any who doubt this, consider the account of Jessica Pinkney, a Prince George’s County high school junior, who told a Post reporter that two days after the school year began, she was finally moved to the cafeteria from the gym, because the cafeteria had air conditioning.  And then she was given an index card with the number 195 on it — her place in line to receive an academic schedule.  This should not happen in America, and when it does, the citizens under the thumb of the authorities responsible should be liberated from their dependence.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Republicans in Congress will take an aggressive stand for these helpless students and against a corrupt and wasteful bureaucracy incapable of executing even the most basic tasks with which it is charged.  Republican commitments to federalism and local authority caution against such a full-throttle embrace of federally funded school vouchers.  Republican orthodoxy on limited government doubts the legitimacy of involvement by Washington in these essentially local matters.  And the Republican understanding of the original Constitution demands a restrictive understanding of fundamental rights.

But as demonstrated in Maryland, vouchers can be an imperative of justice — one consistent with the GOP’s, and the nation’s, historic constitutional commitment to civil rights.

Next week Congress returns from its August recess.  We will hear a great deal from legislators on both sides of the aisle about their admiration for their friend Senator Ted Kennedy.  While not embracing his politics, Republicans should consider the man’s tactics and take on the Prince George’s debacle.  Kennedy spoke loudly and often in the pursuit of justice.  He rarely let an opportunity pass to remind Americans of those in danger of being left behind.  And over time, his moral arguments won adherents and drove the center of the debate in his direction.

Democrats should be ashamed that in the fights over school choice, they take the side of the unions over the little guy — the minority student in a failing school.  And if Republicans spoke on this issue with the frequency and passion that their late colleague devoted to his causes, they might find in a few years that they have achieved some legislative successes on school vouchers, begun to reestablish some trust with the black community, and rebranded the party as one committed to justice and civil rights.

Recent Posts by Henry Clay

GOP Must Make School Vouchers a Civil Rights Issue.

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