Letter to the Editor, The Wall Street Journal
In regard to your June 20 editorial “Cleveland’s Challenge”:
Cleveland indeed could become the landmark Supreme Court decision on K-12 vouchers. But the lives at stake are not just those of the few thousand children who could be forced back into failing public schools by an anti-voucher verdict. (WSJ editorial, June 20.) Equally imperiled would be the millions more children remaining in public schools, because education reformers would have lost the biggest stick to force woefully low-performing schools to shape up.
Look at Florida. Governor Jeb Bush’s A-Plus reform offers families vouchers when public schools flunk state academic tests twice in four years. Last year, only two schools got the voucher dunce cap, but 78 more received their first “F.” However, when this year’s scores came out June 19, all 78 of those schools passed. That was no fluke. Worthless fads like Whole Language got tossed. Principals and teachers worked their fannies off to teach their children the basics. “It was a lot of work, but it is worth it,” said a relieved Debra Williams, principal of Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Jacksonville.
Isolated outbreaks of cheating in some of America’s toniest districts should not obscure the fact that most progress toward meeting tough new standards is coming the old-fashioned way: through hard work. But as do most of us, educators need more than lollipops and ego massages as work incentives. There needs to be a clear consequence for failure, a credible threat. Seemingly nothing strikes fear into the heart of the education Blob more surely than vouchers. If the federal judiciary scuttles vouchers, it will kill the last, best hope for reform of public education.
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