Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Indiana Lawsuit Again Proves That Special Interests Are Out of Touch

Indiana's sweeping school voucher program became law on Friday, and the powerful special interests out to block the program wasted little time in standing up for the status quo. The Indiana State Teachers' Association (ISTA), along with the National Education Association (NEA), filed suit against the program Friday morning, claiming that it's unconstitutional.

It's a refrain we've heard before from opponents of educational options, but it's becoming more and more clear that school choice opponents are beginning to get their own forms of opposition confused. Are they opposing the program because of claims that it violates separation of church and state, despite the fact that no public dollars are directly going to any institution, non-secular or otherwise (instead, they go to parents; that's the crux of choice)? Or are they against vouchers because they claim that choice will hurt public schools? The video below details that flawed argument. (In fact, the program will actually save Indiana taxpayers substantial dollars. See a comprehensive report of school choice savings here.)

Both arguments against the plan are baseless, for the reasons noted above. But what about the claim that there's specific Constitutional language that will invalidate the law? Our friends over at RedefinED take that one up:

Both sides read support for their cause into those 46 words – “all suitable means” could refer to vouchers or “uniform system of Common Schools” could be intended to restrict other approaches. Unfortunately, this confusion is common. In most states, the constitutional framework for public education is intended to be speak to aspirations, not methods. As such, it can’t be expected to spell out whether charter schools or magnet schools or neighborhood schools or school vouchers are the appropriate strategies to meeting the goal of educational opportunity.
In today’s world, political change is often challenged in the courts, and ISTA has every right to do so. Indeed, no one wants an education strategy that would truly undermine learning and drain resources from children. But if we are to keep our covenant with each new generation, we can’t spend too much time dwelling on imprecise words written by generations in the distant past.
Read the full piece from RedefinED here, and while you do, perhaps you shouldn't be surprised at the egregious lack of reform stemming from these organizations. After all, it wasn't until yesterday that the NEA finally agreed that student learning should be a component in evaluating teachers. Isn't that the entire point of teaching: to help kids learn?

Don't get us wrong; we're happy that they're moving forward. We simply wish it was at more than a snail's pace.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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