Y'all may not know this, but we're smack dab in the middle of National School Choice Week. This, upon further inspection, is akin to Right to Breathe and/or Scratch Your Butt Week, since Americans have always had the right to breathe, scratch their butts and send their kids to whatever school they wanted to. This truth, however, is not politically expedient to the rich folks on the Right, who generally have always had to do their own breathing but have long aspired to accumulating enough wealth to be able to afford to pay somebody else to scratch their butts for them.
The school thing is a whole 'nother animal. To hear them talk, we're in this glorious age of enlightenment in which brave souls are working selflessly to help others throw off the shackles of the government schools and provide truth, liberty and real choice when it comes to educational opportunities. This, of course, is horse hockey and even those who are shouting the loudest about "choice" know that (which is probably why they're shouting the loudest).
For the sake of this discussion, we'll leave aside the fact that many Americans were, for a time, either enslaved, herded onto remote reservations or illegally interred simply because people from across the ocean who happened to look like them were shooting at good, white Americans. The rest of the Americans have always enjoyed many freedoms, including freedom of mobility. They could move wherever they wanted, live wherever they wanted and pretty much do whatever they wanted (or do whatever they were capable of) to earn a living.
When it came to educating their children, if they lived out in the country and didn't like the one-room schoolhouse their kids were attending, they could always move into the city. If they lived in the city and didn't like their kids sitting in the same classroom with Irish or Italian immigrant kids, they could always move to the country. In later times, they could have moved from the city to the suburbs or from the suburbs to the country. Someday, they'll be able to move from the country to Elysium.
I'm not being facetious. Parents have always had a choice of where to send their kids to school. But it often required extra work and sacrifice. In the old days, if you wanted to send your kids to a school in a better neighborhood, you had to move to that neighborhood. For the past couple of decades in Arizona, even that is no longer the case. If you want to send your kid to a school in a better neighborhood, all you have to do is get that kid to school every day.
As for private school, this is the way it has always been (and always should be): If you want to send your kid to private school, pay the money. If you can't afford it, work more hours or get a second job. If you still can't afford it, send your kids to public school, make sure they do well, and then maybe someday they'll be able to send their kids to private school.
That sounds like America to me and it also sounds like the real definition of choice. However, in these times of instant gratification, people don't just want choice. They want choice without hardship, choice without consequences, choice without responsibility. They want what they want, they want it now, and they want somebody else to pay for it. And, if they can find a way to blame liberals along the way, all the better.
This is one of the big problems I have with the Tea Party. Although it ostensibly was founded to promote fiscal responsibility and rein in government spending, far too many Tea Partiers will gladly abandon those principles when they bump up against an opportunity to Dick the Democrats. For example, charter schools were supposedly established in Arizona to provide parents with an opportunity to send their kids to a school that perhaps followed less-traditional educational methods. The fact that doing so gave the Legislature the ability to screw over teachers and the much-hated teachers unions may not have been the foremost reason for establishing charters but it was, at worst, a close second.
However, records show that charter schools spend public money like drunken sailors with almost no official oversight, with protection from having to make full financial disclosure almost gleefully provided by the Legislature, and virtually no public outcry from those who claim to give a crap about where taxpayer money is going. It's hypocrisy, plain and simple.
For those who say that I'm obsessed with the ridiculous special treatment afforded to charter schools, I complain about this because those who claim to be concerned about wasteful (and secret) government spending are mysteriously quiet on the subject.
Here's my favorite part of (ahem) National School Choice Week. I got a press release that said that the Arizona Charter Schools Association would be holding a "robust panel discussion on the state of education options in Arizona." The discussion was held at the Arizona Biltmore hotel (yeah, you helped pay for it) at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. The publicly funded discussion about publicly funded charter schools and how they can get even more public funding was, according to the press release, "private and closed to the public."