Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Itch for Mitch

by Edd Doerr

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is being touted as one of the least unacceptable Republican possible aspirants to take on Barrack Obama in 2012. The competition includes the relatively sober Mitt Romney and such klutzes as Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the hotel/casino magnate with the funny hair whose name (rhymes with dump) I would as soon forget. Daniels brought glee to the hearts of the conservatives gathered to hear his speech on education issues on May 4 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. And that is what sounds the alarm bells.

Daniels recently signed into law in the Hoosier state one of the most far-reaching school voucher plans in the country for diverting public funds to private schools, the overwhelming majority of which are pervasively sectarian institutions that tend to discriminate along religious, social class, ethnic, ideological, ability level, degree of incapacity and other lines, primarily in admissions but also in varying degrees in hiring faculty and developing curricula. Voucher plans, and similar tuition tax credit (tax-code voucher) plans, if widely implemented, would fragment our school populations along religious, class and other lines, reduce educational quality, increase costs (including school bus transportation costs), and degrade the teaching profession.

Daniels seems not to care that school vouchers violate Article I, Sections 4 and 6 of the Indiana constitution, or that if Hoosier voters were given the opportunity to vote on the matter they would doubtless reject vouchers just as tens of millions of voters from coast to coast have done by superlandslide margins in over two dozen statewide referenda (including three in the neighboring state of Michigan).

In addition to diverting public funds to religious schools, Daniels has also mimicked his fellow Neanderthal governors in Wisconsin and Ohio in sharply curtailing the right of teachers and their unions to meaningful collective bargaining. Without collective bargaining the public school teaching profession would rather quickly degenerate into something resembling migrant labor or peonage. Teaching would cease to attract the kind of young professionals we need in classrooms.

As if this were not enough, Daniels has also opened up his state for the expansion of charter schools. Years of experience with charter schools around the country have shown that fewer than 20% are better than local public schools, nearly 40% are worse, and the remainder are about the same. One big difference between regular public school and charters (which are publicly supported) is that teachers rarely have unions in the charters.

On yet another front Daniels has indicated that he will sign legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding, a move that could cost Indiana over $2 million in federal funds. In addition, his legislature is considering bills that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require clinics to provide women with inaccurate information and nonconsensus religious opinion disguised as fact.

Is there no room in the Republican party any more for an Eisenhower, a Willkie, a Nelson Rockefeller, a Charles Mathias, a Gilbert Gude, an Abe Lincoln?


Bill Creasy said...

It might be interesting to do a study of salaries at community colleges. There are community colleges that vary a lot in terms of union representation and salaries, so it could give a indication of how the free market treats teachers. I've heard that adjunct professors are not able to make a living by teaching. I can imagine that the same type of "race to the bottom" could happen in public schools if there are vouchers, no unions, and free market principles. It could be yet another way for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get uneducated and have no chance at competing for good jobs.

Don Wharton said...

@Bill "conservative" states tend to have extremely low tax rates and very low salaries for teachers. The end result is poor quality education and the dimished critical thinking that comes from poor education. It makes it easier to maintain the counterfactual myths designed to convinced the relatively poor that their interests are served by voting for policies that serve the rich.