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October 13, 2003
Coleman straddles the fence

Sen. Norm Coleman tries to eat his cake and have it too on the issue of school vouchers. He proposes putting a school voucher plan in place for Washington DC schoolchildren, but tries to claim he's not considering any application to any other state, including Minnesota:

"I'm not going to push for vouchers for Minnesota kids," Coleman said in an interview. "I'm not going to push for a national program. But I will certainly support the local mayor in his effort to provide greater opportunity for his kids."

Well, why not? I understand that DC schools are especially poor performers, but there are certainly schools like that in Minnesota, too, and elsewhere. Are those schoolchildren any less trapped by the educational monopoly? Why are DC schoolchildren special cases? I suspect it has a lot less to do with geography than with mollifying Education Minnesota, the state NEA outfit, who weighs in thusly:

Judy Schaubach, president of Education Minnesota, the teachers union, said that instead of supporting vouchers, Congress should be "funding the things we know that work," such as lower class sizes, well-qualified teachers and reading programs.

Of the voucher plan, she said: "The purpose for doing it is allegedly to help these kids, but there's just no evidence that that's how it's going to work. So it's disappointing that somehow that rhetoric is resonating with the senator. . . . When public money is spent in this way, it does have an impact. I mean, there are limited dollars available."

"Limited dollars" is a much-used and essentially meaningless phrase. Of course dollars are limited -- they are, after all, a finite measurement. But voucher plans do not take away money that is paid for students who remain in the system; they redirect only those monies that would be paid for the students who leave the system. In most plans, they don't even redirect all of that money, usually more like half, so actually the public school makes a profit on every child who opts out. Not only that, but it certainly allows class sizes to shrink, which is one of the top priorities of the NEA and Education Minnesota.

This is not about "limited dollars" anyway; it's about making sure the government enforces the education monopoloy that continually promotes mediocrity and protects union jobs. School vouchers would inject much-needed competition into education but would eliminate the tenure and job security that is Issue #1 with the NEA. Coleman's safety dance around this gets ridiculous later in the article:

Despite his support for the proposal, Coleman said he dislikes even using the word "voucher." "In my state it's a pretty divisive word," he told his colleagues...Calling it "the deadly v-word," Coleman said then that Republicans needed "to get away from the voucher word."

This is just political-correctness nonsense. "Voucher" is a perfectly acceptable and descriptive word -- there is nothing inherently evil or negative about it. Are we going to have to change words every few years in everything we do to keep the PC police happy?

Norm Coleman is not covering himself in glory these days. Stop flirting with Education Minnesota, Senator: They do not support you and will campaign hard against you in 2008, regardless of whether you fight vouchers with every ounce of your being. They are part of the problem. Start concentrating on solutions.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2003 9:44 AM

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