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Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Response To Ross Shealy

Once again the author of an odious South Carolina blog has taken it upon himself to vet nominees for the Education Oversight Committee. Mr. Ross Shealy has reported that its newest member, Julie Hershey, once signed a petition of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.

Having coordinated a New Jersey statewide campaign for public school reform and parental choice in education, I have had some experience with the Alliance and its founder, Mr. Marshall Fritz.
He is an engaging, affable, persuasive and persistent man, who makes the compelling argument that just as Americans would never condone government ownership of the print or broadcast media because of their influence over what Americans think, so too should government not control the very formation and intellectual development of children during the twelve most formative years of their lives. It is a powerful argument that Mr. Fritz delivers with the zeal of an evangelist.

In our statewide campaign for the right of parents to seek out the schools they believe can best serve the way their children learn, we argued that competition and an array of schools catering to the diverse ways children learn, would be a vast improvement on the “one-size-fits-all” schools that are typical of most public school districts.
The few places that have actually experimented with choice in education have demonstrated that school choice does improve public schools. Eighteen years after the Milwaukee school choice program was implemented, Milwaukee has an array of high quality public schools that serve more students than they did before parents were free to walk away. Parents are eager to support their neighborhood schools, provided they work.

Nevertheless, while we were making the argument that school choice improves public education, we began to notice that some of our most important coalition members had also signed Mr. Fritz’ petition, undercutting our claims that the campaign was not only in the best interest of children, but also in the best interest of quality public schools.
When we contacted these petition “signers” we found again and again, that our coalition leaders had a cordial conversation with Mr. Fritz, had found that they agreed with many of the persuasive arguments he makes, but were not ready to abandon public schools and were surprised to learn that their names had been added to his list of petition signers. Like Mrs. Hershey and Mrs. Iacovelli before her, many requested that their names be removed.

In a state that ranks among the last in SAT scores, and where approximately half of all students entering high school drop out, Mr.
Shealy should be pleased that the Education Oversight Committee includes public servants like Mrs. Hershey, those who think outside the box and want radical improvements to a system that is failing so many South Carolina children. Does Mr. Shealy really want to subject his own children to a system where they will have a fifty percent chance of graduating? Will he want them to know that he stood in the doorway, blocked parents seeking something better for their children, and defended a system that has thwarted the potential and ruined the lives of so many millions of students?

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