Letter to the Editor, The New Republic
If Ryan Lizza is correct, the teacher-union chiefs shouldn’t be beaming so much at Al Gore’s professions of fidelity to their agendas. (“Same Lesson,” August 21.) The “dirty little secret” is that many Democrats are fed up with “the unions’ resistance to standards with teeth.” And proponents of school vouchers shouldn’t be so chipper either. No matter what George W. Bush advocates in his campaign, many Republicans have “already given up on vouchers, which don’t attract much public support.” According to Lizza, both parties are moving toward a centrist consensus that Joe Lieberman was way ahead of everyone else in constructing.
There are, however, a few flies in this romantic confection. If Gore wins, he undoubtedly will have his eye on a second term, and the teacher unions have practically colonized the Democratic Party. It’s hard to see how he could betray them and retain their support. As for supposedly waning support for vouchers, Lizza must be relying on education-establishment polls like the Phi Delta Kappan’s recent one, which posed a false choice:
Do you favor improving existing public schools or offering students vouchers to attend private or parochial schools? That’s bogus because the point of vouchers is precisely to prod the public schools into improving. And that’s happening in places like Florida, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, where parental support for vouchers is sky-high.
Actually, no matter how much Gore and Bush battle for Lieberman’s middle ground, there won’t be a “national consensus” that will settle the most important education issues, such as parental choice and teacher tenure. Schooling is a state and local responsibility, and neither candidate is proposing a constitutional amendment to nationalize education.
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