L. Neil Smith's

Number 22, February 15, 1997.

Millionaires Will Rescue Victims of Government Schools

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Faced with entering a new century with a workforce whose government schooling more closely resembles a slow-motion 12-year lobotomy, America's business owners aren't waiting for the well-entrenched teachers unions and other educrats to reluctantly "reform" America's schools: They're reaching for their wallets.
         In New York City, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani presided Feb. 3 at a press conference where the School Choice Scholarships Foundation announced plans to provide annual private school scholarships of up to $1,400 each, for at least three years, to 1,000 youngsters from the city's most embarrassingly awful schools.
         The students will be selected by lottery from among those scheduled to enter the city's first through fifth grades next fall.
         But the lottery winners must still apply and gain admission to a private school in order to receive the money.
         Those who are accepted into parochial schools may find the $1,400 adequate to cover tuition. The parents of those who opt for pricier private academies will still have to make up the difference, or seek other financial aid.
         Those who resist any interference with the current government monopoly on youth propaganda camps whine that programs like this one "bleed" the best students from the tax-funded schools.
         The New York-based Wall Street Journal responded in an editorial Feb 3: "The rebuttal to that is by this point a no-brainer: Right now the public schools are so bad that there are very few quality performers left to bleed. ...
         "Decades of putting bureaucrats' jobs before the welfare of the city's children have brought devastating results," the Journal's editorial writers continued. "This winter for example the city reported that reading scores declined 9 percent in the past three years. In a town that once prided itself on its place at education's vanguard, only one in three third-graders can read at grade level."
         Why do private schools do better? It's not money -- they almost always spend less per student than the roaring cataracts of bankruptcy which the government schools have become. Instead, the Journal credits the simple lack of bureaucratic sclerosis: "As a result of their freedom -- to require shirts and ties, to impose multiplication tables, to expel delinquents -- private schools have a better track record. ... New York, recall, is the city whose courts recently sided against a guard who tried to remove a gun-toting teen from the premises of a public high school."
         And New York -- though a long-time and notable holdout against such sensible reforms -- is just the tip of the iceberg.
         New York's School Choice Scholarships program "is one of a growing number of private and public programs nationwide," reports Fritz Steiger, president of the Arkansas-based Children's Educational Opportunity Foundation (CEO America.)
         The New York plan will depend entirely on private donations by wealthy businessmen and corporations -- many from Wall Street -- to avoid the snare of church-state entanglement.
         But "In the last month alone," Steiger said Monday, "tax-funded vouchers for school choice were unanimously voted for by the Lake Travis School Board in Texas; Gov. Arne Carlson of Minnesota introduced an educational reform plan called 'Student First' that provides tax credits for private education and home schooling; the 'A Better Choice' school voucher program received a $1 million contribution in Albany, and now this new initiative in New York City all add to the dozens of other school choice programs from coast to coast."
         The first CEO private school choice program was initiated in Indianapolis in 1991. Since then, Mr. Steiger reports, an additional 29 programs have gotten underway in other cities, including Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles.
         "Businessmen have invested more than $30 million in private school choice programs for over 12,000 children," Steiger says, "with 18,000 still on the waiting list."
         Government has failed at a task which it was never authorized to undertake in the first place, under state and federal Constitutions designed to sharply limit the fields in which bureaucrats and taxmen could meddle with our children, our families, and our lives.
         Now the private sector steps forward in the crisis, bringing the unique genius of competition to the task of restoring health, vibrancy, and some sense of the true value of learning and achievement to the stinking charnel houses which these legions of arrogant collectivist drones have made of our children's natural love of learning.
         And not a moment too soon.
         Contact CEO America, Bentonville, Ark., at 501-273-6957, or 703-683-5004.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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