Ruth Simmons Gets It Wrong
Earlier this week, Brown University President Ruth Simmons discussed education in a lecture before the Urban League of Rhode Island. Here is a part of her remarks, as reported by Tom Mooney in the Projo…
“How often do you talk to people who just can’t bear the thought that their tax dollars are going to help children across town? It’s appalling and we must call it what it is. The notion that we can request the resources in society for the privileged few and leave everybody else behind is a notion that must be called to account.”President Simmons is far too quick to assume that sinister motives must lie behind a public unwillingness to send their money “across town”. America’s experience with public education over the past 40 years has made people, quite reasonably, wary of surrendering ever increasing amounts of money to the control of rigid, underperforming bureaucracies.
There are better ways to deliver education than through the current system dominated by local-government monopolies, but the alternatives are blocked by people who cannot bear the thought of trying them. How often do you talk to people who can’t bear the thought that tax dollars will be spent in the form of vouchers? How about people who can’t bear the thought that that parents, and not bureaucrats, will decide where to spend tax dollars through a public school choice program? And how often do you talk to people who can’t bear the thought that tax dollars might help create a network of charter schools?
The answer to all of these questions, if you are talking to the school committees and interest groups that control public education, is quite often.
Don’t confuse a lack of support for a rigid, government-knows-what’s-best-for-you (when it clearly doesn’t) system of education with a lack of support for public education in general. And before accusing people of being unwilling to pay for education, allow them a full range of funding options to choose from. That is, if you can bear the thought of it.