Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hawpe In, The Water Is Fine!

Louisville CJ columnist David Hawpe wades into the school voucher debate this morning and manages not to get his feet wet.

I challenge you to read his column and tell me one thing it adds to the discussion.

We get that Hawpe doesn't like people who want to democratize competition between public and private schools. The closest he gets to a point, though, is when he mentions a report cited in the Wall Street Journal that determined public schools do just as well as private schools if you adjust for race, socioeconomics, and other factors.

But if you adjust for looks, personality, and other factors I would be Brad Pitt -- starring in movies and "dating" Angelina Jolie.

In many public schools, interested parents, secure homes, and happy, motivated, focused kids equal success. Additional resources go to serve disabled and troubled students. The problem is with the large majority who don't fit in these extremes. Smart, happy comfortable kids make up for the statistical problem of middling students who would likely do better with more resources directed their way. But we can't just keep statistically correcting for the core group that is the future of America. Not while generations of driven kids in other less affluent countries keep eating our lunches.

The problem here is a political one and contains the best argument for giving parents the option to leave their neighborhood school, take their tax dollars, and seek a better educational fit elsewhere. Kentucky's school systems are burdened by layers of administrative pork-laden union-protected central office jobs that would have to go if our public schools had to compete -- rather than lobby -- for their position in the marketplace.

KEA types respond to the above logic with personal attacks. Getting past that point is a major key to improving our public education system.

In fact, if we could have a reasonable conversation about how we spend our money on public education, the need to call for vouchers would very likely sink to the bottom of the pool.