|By Tony Russell|
Conservatives have been smacking their lips, hardly able to wait to
wade into the trough, now that Mr. Bush has been handed the
Presidency. One of their expectations is that school vouchers will
become the foundation of Mr. Bush's education policy. The
implications of such a profound shift in educational funding are
enormous--and conservatives carefully conceal the implications, while
touting the virtues of choice. After all, who could oppose offering
people more choices?
The first implication is that money will be drained from public school
systems, which are, for the most part, already strapped for funds.
And we're not talking about minor amounts; we're talking about
billions of dollars. The people left behind in the public system will
have fewer resources, fewer teachers, and fewer offerings than they
The second implication is that voucher programs will amount to
billions of dollars of subsidies for right-wing fundamentalist
programs--which, with the Catholic parochial schools, make up the vast
majority of non-public schools in the country. In effect, the
government would be subsidizing the religious and political
indoctrination of enormous numbers of children, using public funds to
produce more Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, and Oliver Norths.
Conservatives claim that blacks overwhelmingly support voucher
programs. I don't know where they get their figures. In the election
just concluded, blacks organized voter registration drives and
get-out-the-vote campaigns, then turned out in record numbers to vote
9-to-1 against Mr. Bush. Hardly a ringing endorsement of vouchers!
With large scale voucher programs, the people stuck in weakened,
depleted public schools will be even more heavily black and Hispanic.
The claim that blacks support voucher programs is especially ironic
given that the explosion of so-called Christian schools in this
country dates from the Supreme Court decision desegregating public
schools. Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education led to a mass exodus
from public schools by the good white folk of the Southland. In great
numbers, they suddenly, simultaneously discovered that their children
needed to have Christian values instilled in private, segregated
Such institutions spread like a cancer to other parts of the country.
It is these schools, firmly rooted in bigotry and hypocrisy, which
are the intended beneficiaries of school voucher programs. That
thousands of well-intentioned, honorable parents have also enrolled
their children in such schools mitigates neither their history nor
The truth is that any governmental program which works for the benefit
of the public at large will be attacked by conservatives, who will
want to privatize it in some way because the beneficiaries of the
privatization will be their white, well-to-do constituencies, and
because the conservative movement, at its heart, is profoundly elitist
Social security has been the most successful social program in U.S.
history; Bush and his conservative cronies want to give you more
choices, thereby undermining the funding for the general population.
Government health insurance, they scream, is socialized medicine; they
give you HMOs, which celebrated the New Year by dumping almost a
million of the elderly and most dependent from their roles. They want
to give everybody a tax cut, but in dollar amounts, the tax cut turns
out to be massively tilted toward the wealthy.
School voucher programs work the same way; undermine the public
institution, and help finance the political and religious base of the