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Don't Fall for the Liberal Pretense of Charter-School Support

March 31, 2014 - 6:00pm

In my lifelong study of the liberal mental process I've always been amazed at the ability some have to take a totally meaningless talking point or bumper sticker and run with it as if it were a showstopper.

Example: "Bush lied, people died." And a favorite during the Bush era "Halliburton!" -- the very mention of a company's name being sufficient to set liberal heads nodding sagely, as if they had just found the philosopher's stone.

Liberals once pretended to welcome charter schools but, as charter schools began to attract more and more students away from failing traditional schools, began finding fault.

Currently, they are trying to muck up efforts to make the charter-school process in Florida fair. Districts elsewhere have been doing everything possible to block charter-school operations.

Anti-reform interests have seized upon a study purporting to show little difference between outcomes in charter schools and traditional government schools.

Great formulation. What does it mean? Another way to phrase it is that charter schools do as well as government schools. Hardly the point they want to make.

Liberals are not deterred. Engage in debate with one over the value of charter schools and he will sniff that "a study shows they are no better than public schools," as if that settled the matter and proved it was futile for parents to look to charter schools as an alternative.

They miss the point. The comparison is based on the average of each set of schools.

There are below-average, average and above-average schools in both groups, but note one important difference: Bad charter and private schools go out of business. Failing traditional schools rarely do.

The essential point is that children don't attend averages. They attend schools.

So, do parents yank their kids out of above-average traditional schools and send them packing to a below-average charter school? Of course not.

But parents concerned about their child's future, would transfer them from a failing government school where they are learning little or nothing and send them to a better charter school -- or private school if a voucher is available. (Liberals try to cut off that escape route, too.)

Parents who have the option might consider other factors in choosing a school, such as proximity to the home or their child's safety. If a kid is getting mugged or bullied by other children, and the traditional school authorities are doing nothing, concerned parents might choose a school that is slightly inferior educationally.

The bottom line: Children who are able to escape from a failing government school cannot be any worse off whether they choose a good, bad or indifferent alternative.

Choice infuriates liberals. The ultraliberal mayor of New York City is trying to destroy the popular charter schools to satisfy the powerful teacher unions that virtually run the city's schools.

Liberals can't deny choice to parents with the means to pay for a safe alternative where they can get as good or better education. But they can stop the poor from having a choice, by shutting down charter schools and opposing voucher programs tooth and nail.

It is sad that they engage in such mean behavior but pathetic that they use such vapid arguments to justify their actions.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement, he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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