"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vouchers - Unions - Budgets

Vouchers in Indiana

A few days ago the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ran a blog entry by Karen Francisco about the voucher law before the Indiana General Assembly. The question was asked, "What's the goal of the voucher bill?"

Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R) claimed that the goal was always to "empower parents."

In the Louisville Courier Journal, Lesley Stedman Weidenbener checked out the bill to see if that was true. She found that
the plan, written before Election Day and before Republicans were boldly using the "v" word, states: "Provide children who attend failing schools grants to attend a school of choice.
Francisco writes,
Oops. Nothing there about empowering parents whose kids attend successful schools.

It's an important point because the bill wouldn't limit vouchers to families without the means to move to a better school district. A family of four earning as much as $60,000 a year would qualify for a tax handout – and that figure is reduced from the original Republican proposal that would have given a voucher to families earning more than $100,000 a year.

Republicans seem to have figured out that Hoosiers aren't thrilled with the idea of giving tax dollars to families earning more than the statewide household median income. Television commercials paid for by the governor's political action committee, Aiming Higher, claim that vouchers will help "a child trapped in an underperforming school who has no chance at a great education."

Another clue that the voucher goal wasn't so transparent is found in the fact that four of Bosma's caucus members voted no, a good indication that they believe "empowering parents" isn't the best use of the state's scarce education dollars.
Evil Teachers Unions

Are public sector unions to blame for states' budget woes?

Deborah Meier correctly shows how this is a simple case of "divide and conquer." Unions are being held up as the bad guys who are "breaking the bank" while the richest 1% get richer, line the pockets of politicians, and get kick backs and reduced taxes from the government.
In a country in which the very richest "capitalists" now possess more than half the wealth of the nation, and when many pay virtually no taxes and earn as much of their profit overseas as they do "at home," we still hear talk about Big, Bad Labor.

Democracy requires conscious and everlasting miracles to survive, resting on needed balancing forces of power. These balances come in many shapes and forms, but since the late New Deal (in the late 1930s), chief among them has been the power of organized people—unions first and foremost—to confront the awesome power of organized money.

Lobbyist by lobbyist, the unions certainly couldn't match their opponents, even if we added in the many good citizen advocacy groups. But they had one advantage over the others: the relatively high loyalty of their members. Numbers of people vs. numbers of dollars.

What will serve as a balancing force in the days and years ahead? What prevents the richest 1 percent from spending half their money on politics, while still having more left than the other 99 percent together?

And what will stop them from using the newly privatized school chains they are busily packaging to their self-interest, not that of the families of their students? What is unique about such schools is that they are not, by law, required to be public in nature. They're not in any way governed by either their own public (parents, students, teachers, or neighbors); like any small, unmonitored business, they are hard to organize for parents or teachers, and it's difficult to "recall" their boards of trustees. They are accountable more or less only for test scores and graduation rates, if we can imagine what it would cost to truly monitor them all! Try getting real facts now. (Although, I'll admit it's not a lot easier to get reliable data from the regular public schools either.)
What would it take to balance the budget?

What is the source of the budget problems facing the states and the country? Is it collective bargaining? Is it the unions for people who average around $50,000 a year? Or is it corporate welfare which allows companies like GE and Exxon/Mobile to pay no taxes at all? State governors and legislatures are cutting programs for the poor and working people while giving tax benefits to corporate America far outstripping those cuts. Breaking unions won't balance the budget.



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