Let’s see. Suppose I were a new age conservative strategist working at a conservative think tank like the Cato Institute and I was being handsomely funded to solve a persistent problem. The public schools are turning out too many liberals. What would I do?
First I would squeeze the federal monies going to education by claiming that the states know better how to fund their own education systems and nobody likes the federal government telling the states what to do with their own money anyway. Then I would pass some stringent federal education standards because “too many of our kids are failing” and allow the funds to help the states meet those standards be cut off in committee, creating an unfunded mandate which squeezes more school funds.
Second I would squeeze the state monies for education by claiming that the local school districts can fund their own local education systems better than the state and besides who wants the state running local education. This would force local school districts, facing massive cuts, to come to the public with the only funding method left to them, the regressive, highly unfair property tax. The public knows levies are only for capital improvements, brick and mortar funds, and begin to mistrust the school boards, believing that their unwise, wasteful use of funds is the real problem and they are asking the overburdened taxpayer to bail them out. The taxpayers have had enough and inherently understanding that they are being played. They vote down the levies.
More and more levies fail and the schools begin to crumble under the weight of insufficient funds. Prominent conservatives point their fingers and say “See, the public schools are failing. What they need is some good old honest American competition. Our tax dollars would be better spent in vouchers that will give poor kids a choice in the schools they attend. People should also have the choice of giving their tax money to a private school if they wish or keep that money to home school their own children”. Sounds pretty good on the surface, real American ingenuity. But consider the ramifications.
Certain select poor children will be “anointed” and given good conservative private school educations. This will result in less liberals coming out of our schools, especially the poor who tend to be more liberal (when they choose to vote that is). Double whammy. Public schools will fail and their administrations taken over by private concerns (think Sylvan Learning Center). This sad fact is a part of No Child Left Behind, read the provisions. More children removed from the horrible liberal influence of the real problem, the teacher’s union. God forbid our teachers actually get paid a living wage and have meaningful benefits. After all they are only poisoning our children. These children will also now get a good conservative education. Fewer liberals still. More folks are disgusted with the state of education and home school their children at great personal cost. Some of these people are liberal and their kids get a liberal leaning education but most are conservative. Even fewer liberal kids. See the pattern. This is one good strategic initiative.
My supervisor at the Cato Institute will be thrilled. I have solved a big problem and now instead of producing liberals with critical thinking skills our newly privatized schools will produce good little consumers who are just skilled enough to operate our corporation’s systems but too dumb to know they are being screwed. The other poor kids who still go to public schools will make good fodder for our constant wars.
The Cato Institute is giving me a raise.