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Allowing School Vouchers Hides The True Victims
(Written by Tommy Ates.  Posted July 9, 2002)

Yes, I know that the thought of easy access of public school options is a 'dream,' but it isn't American, and doesn't have a sense of 'fairness' or 'parity.' Rather, the patience of the American upper class towards the working poor and indigent is running out.

And we know it.

The Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the Cleveland pilot-school program for children to attend private or parochial schools with tax-payer school vouchers is a direct reflection of the public, politicians, and some parents not seeing the true tragedy of this church-state "choice": the kids who are left behind.

Even though school vouchers can get kids out of public school, their parents still have to afford it first.

For the middle and lower middle class, desperate not to have to settle for an educationally-challenged school system, this is their pass to leave.

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision, falling directly on the Conservative/moderate-liberal fault line, illustrates how the right can dictate the agenda and create the fiscal and moral bankruptcy of the American public school system.

Even though the failing public school system has disproportionally affected African-Americans and Hispanics, the number of kids that would actually use the vouchers would increase as the condition of the public schools worsened with every child leaving the school system.

This means that for "the poorest of the poor" in the worst schools, the status quo remains the same. Your child goes to a sub-standard school with very "green" teachers and not enough state and city resources to properly attend to curriculum and disciplinary problems (because the 'problem' kids will still be there).

In short, the 'voucher' vacuum would have no "off" switch.

School vouchers provide no reason for kids to stay in the public schools, and every reason to leave (especially on the tax-payers dime).

Therefore, the population groups closest to the nozzle would say "goodbye" to the system first: middle-class whites, closely followed by middle class blacks, and Hispanics, leaving the poor, indigent, neglected children to reflect the squalid conditions many of them are already forced to live under. This possibility undermines that the notion of a 'free and competent education' for all children. And without this social structure, how can our country guarantee the notion of upward mobility and the American dream?

The Bush administration provides no answers for this question, rather the joy of leaving a crumbling, government bureaucracy which can be saved, and must be, as legions of children are handed substandard educations with the expectation that they can live extraordinary lives.

Not unlike the Reaganesque vision of supply-side economics, huh?

The problems of the public system comes from the lack of adequate teacher salaries and plummeting tax-base of inner cities, as the ravages of white and black flight take their toll on funds for school infrastructure and special education. The solution of school vouchers, now approved by the Supreme Court, is the implicit notion that the American public school system is a failure and should be abandoned.

If this notion is true, what is the fate of whose youth unable to leave? No one wishes to discuss that question.

Not conservative activists, not parochial schools, not middle-class parents who can afford to leave.

One can only conclude, these children 'left behind' are expendable. And no one wants to know the fate of children to whom no opportunities were given and whose place in society is a liability to all, whether that person be one's neighbor, one's pariah, one's class, or one's race. Apparently, even the courts are admitting (by omission) that the path of the underclass is a one-way drive.

Forget about the state student proficiency tests or the need of greater computer technology, parents of parochial school children and the growing number of children schooled via school vouchers are not going to willing to pay for more school taxes and bonds due to money crunch caused by the increasing exodus.

The public schools must give the school administrators and teachers greater freedom to teach to the individual and community needs of the students at large. The kids, in turn, must begin to learn problem-solving and debate techniques that will reinforce social actions prevalent in the digital work force.

Literally, the dreams and aspirations of children would be stifled as the muffler of voucher engines runs ruff-shod over the intrinsic rights of the newest oppressed group: the 'unknowledgeable.'

The whole issue of school vouchers beings used for alternatives to public education reminds me of the book about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. The similarities are startling: a new ailment misdiagnosed as cancer, the disease's true nature hidden by bigotry, and in the eyes of a child, a nation's absolution (Ryan White).

We must save the 'unknowledgeable.'   

About the author: Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right! Tommy Ates is a featured columnist of Left Is Right (http://www.leftisright.net) appearing in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Wichita Eagle, The Macon Telegraph, and Global Black News, among others. His e-mail address is   atesbodhi5@aol.com

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