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Choice is Good for Everyone, So Why Do Liberals Hate It?

February 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

Last week conservative Americans were celebrating National School Choice Week, a genuine success story.

School choice enables students to escape failing schools, while saving the taxpayers boatloads of money and causing public schools to improve.

Liberals hate it, and they succeeded in crushing the popular and successful choice program in Washington, D.C., which had produced $2.62 in benefits for every $1 spent, according to a peer-reviewed study. That means it was a true investment as opposed to the pork-barrel projects to which liberals typically apply that term.

Moreover, as the New York Times might say in a headline, Blacks and the poor hit hardest. The district has a large low-income black population and there were so many applicants they had to hold a lottery for participation in the program. One of the few conservative victories of recent years was winning reauthorization of the D.C. program in the budget compromise of April 2011.

Florida has been a leader in school choice, despite the best efforts of the Education Blob. This amorphous mass of intransigence has fought almost every effort to improve standards and accountability, which are the driving forces behind the improvements in education.

Choice opponents even have a support group a nonpartisan liberal outfit called Fund Education Now that fixates on throwing more money at the public schools, which enriches the unions that bankroll liberal politicians.

They employ the usual lame arguments, such as public money should not be used for private education. Nonsense. Governments routinely contract work out to private companies.

Fortunately, Florida families have on their side the advocacy group Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is spearheading the fight to improve the lives of Florida children.

Still, the myth that spending equals education is pervasive and last week Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $2,500 bonus for every teacher, regardless of how effective that teacher may be. This is contradictory to his support for performance pay another reform that has been producing results but apparently his political advisers think it might garner him a few votes. Predictably, the Blob's response basically has been the polite applause you get from a golf gallery for a mediocre shot, along with the standard complaint that it is not nearly enough.

Scott was elected governor because he was not a politician. Acting like one is not likely to help him retain office -- especially when his opponent may be Charlie Crist, the Baryshnikov of the political pirouette.

Good teachers have played a part in the educational gains and should be rewarded, especially since fiscal responsibility has the state's economy on the mend. Pay is a matter for local boards, negotiating with unions but legislators could provide extra funds and encourage districts to reward the best teachers. That might also have the effect of stimulating districts that have been slow to implement performance pay plans.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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