Commentary: Tea Party Official Wants to Kill Public Education

The agenda behind the voucher movement.

Posted: 07/21/2011 07:56 AM EDT
Filed Under education

One of the beautiful things about living in the U.S. is that each and every citizen living within its borders is guaranteed the right to an education. Like voting, our access to a gratuitous public education is one of those fundamental rights that we all tend to take for granted. Our public school system is far from perfect, many school districts are underfunded and teachers are overworked, underpaid and saddled with the burden of making sure that no child—be they African-American, white or Latino—is left behind. 

 

Despite the short-comings of public schools, they serve a purpose. It is vital for a nation to have an educated populous. One of the duties of the government is to insure at all cost that that its citizens have access to a quality education. But some powerful lobbyists disagree. As you read this there are radical right-wing political action groups that are waging an intense war against your child’s right to a public education.

 

One of the major ways they’re undermining our public school system are through school vouchers. School vouchers are government-issued certificates that assist parents in paying tuition for their kids’ private school. The vouchers are considered controversial by many proponents of public school because it robs public schools of valuable tax dollars plus drains student enrollment.

 

Nevertheless pro-voucher activists glibly dismiss this criticism, claiming that the vouchers encourage free-market competition among private and public schools that they believe will actually help improve our education system. But apparently for some private school proponents the voucher movement is nothing more than a benign means to a sinister end—the destruction of our public school system. 

 

Recently one of the nation’s leading pro-voucher activists and president of the Independence Hall Tea Party, Terri Adams, admitted that her ultimate goal is to do away with public schools altogether. In a mass email touting the virtues of vouchers, Adams said, “We think that public schools should go away because they are hurting our children.”

 

When Adams was questioned about her statement by a retired New Jersey school teacher, Adams wrote with even more candor, removing all doubt as to what her organization’s intent is. Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it.”

 

Before you dismiss Adams as harmless right-wing rabble-rouser with a chip on her shoulder, keep in mind that her organization is extremely active in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was instrumental in getting pro-voucher legislation passed in the latter two states and if she and her fellow pro-voucher activists have their way, parents of lesser financial means and many Blacks who mostly rely on public schools to educate their children across the nation will eventually be forced to pay for their children’s primary and secondary education. We can’t allow this to happen under any circumstances. We must raise our voices and flex our political muscles to let the Teri Adamses of this nation know that education is a right to all citizens, not a privilege for an elite few.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Niall Carson/PA Photos /Landov)

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