Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Ricky on State says no choice for you

5

Semi-retired Oh Ricky Pimentel, aka Ricky on State, is not a fan of Hispanics for School Choice, andthe reasons he offers are tiresome.

A story by Georgia Pabst in the Journal Sentinel today reports that a new group, Hispanics for School Choice, wants the state Legislature to remove the enrollment cap in Milwaukee choice program, expand choice to allow students from Milwaukee to attend schools throughout Milwaukee County, lift all income limits, expand choice to other cities. But here’s a question: If preliminary data from a 10-year longitudinal study says essentially that choice schools overall are no better, no worse than MPS schools, why would anyone be seeking an expansion? Choice is grand but not if options available do not further the cause of improved education. And that’s where we are at the moment. We have some very good schools in MPS and some very bad ones – and district-wide not enough students being well educated. That apparently is the same lay of the land among choice schools. Some sterling choices – Messmer schools come to mind – and some bad choices.

Remove all income limits? No way. Without the voucher program, low-income students are indeed without choices. Middle class students and upper-income students have choices. Many of their parents no doubt resent having to pay taxes for schools that their children might not attend. OK but there are plenty of government services that I do not use. I still pay. I understand about social contracts. I’m more than OK with that.

And raising income limits just confirms suspicions that support for choice schools was a Trojan Horse all along, with students of color cynically used as pawns – that tax vouchers for everyone regardless of income was the goal all along. I have no doubt that the parents involved in Hispanics for School Choice want the best for their children. But everyone should want the best for all Milwaukee’s children. And since more Hispanics (and everyone else from other groups) attend MPS than choice schools, the logical choice for focus should be improving these. Needed: Improvement across the board so that the best is the norm for all schools in each system. Until that happens, I don’t see a lot of sense in choice expansion. And I see no sense in business as usual in MPS.

For starters, if Pimentel really believes choice schools are no better than public schools, then why not end the program altogether?

But Pimentel knows that’s not the case. Choice schools have a demonstrably better graduation rates and they do it at less cost.

The organizers of Hispanics for School Choice understand the positive impact of the school choice program from the experience of the successful and largely (99%) Hispanic St. Anthony’s on the South Side. Perhaps Pimentel should take the tour and learn a few facts before he starts opining on the future of school choice.

Then there’s the sleight of hand Pimentel attempts to pull when it comes to school funding.

Remove all income limits? No way. Without the voucher program, low-income students are indeed without choices. Middle class students and upper-income students have choices. Many of their parents no doubt resent having to pay taxes for schools that their children might not attend. OK but there are plenty of government services that I do not use. I still pay. I understand about social contracts. I’m more than OK with that.

It’s not an either-or situation. If parents are given a voucher to send their child to a private school, it does not mean they are not paying taxes to send the children of other parents to public schools. If anything, Pimentel’s logical hiccup is an argument that he should cheerfully continue to pay taxes to expand school choice, especially as the cost of education for choice students is substantially less than a public school education.

Then Pimentel let’s loose this whopper, “…raising income limits just confirms suspicions that support for choice schools was a Trojan Horse all along…” Really? Whose suspicions are those? Pimentel’s? He doesn’t say. If choice is a Trojan Horse, it’s a popular, crowded horse.

Perhaps Pimentel should spend more time worrying about why so many parents are dissatisfied with their local public schools rather than worrying about keeping Hispanics trapped in them. He might just be confirming other people’s suspicions that well-to-do liberals are more interested in protecting the teachers unions and the status quo than educating minority children.

Be Sociable, Share!

Print this entry