Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Roads? Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads"

As we approach the next few Tuesdays in Wisconsin, expect a fair amount of heated rhetoric from both sides of the aisle in their attempts to sway voters ahead of the state's numerous recall elections.

Such was the case last night in Portage, Wisconsin, where two legislators met for a pre-election debate. State Sen. Luther Olsen is defending his seat against the challenge of State Rep. Fred Clark, and though it's reported that the two candidates have a large amount of mutual respect—certainly far more than has been shown in other races—it appears that level of respect doesn't extend to all of the state's constituents. Below is a local newspaper's characterization of a quote from Clark, where he makes a startling analogy about school vouchers:
Clark also took issue with Republican moves to increase the number of vouchers, paid for with state money, for students attending private schools. 
That, Clark said, is as absurd as it would be to build a network of private roads because some people don’t like state highways.

Clark calling vouchers for low-income kids "absurd" seems to us like a lack of both compassion and self-awareness. What is truly "absurd" is for him to compare the schools that educate our children to roads and highways. What is "absurd" is for him to  equate people not liking highways with families who must watch their kids struggle—their future potential curtailed—as a result of a schooling environment that doesn't work for them.

And what's especially absurd is for him to look past a fundamental flaw in his argument: when someone doesn't like a road, they can choose a different route. There's no expectation from those of us who support school choice that a certain system be right for everyone, or that any institution please all. But a person should be able to choose a different path for their child if the current one isn't working. They can do that on the highway, but unfortunately for thousands of families across the country, they can't do the same in the classroom.

The incumbent, Sen. Olsen, made a great point at the beginning of last night's debate:
"It’s sort of a shame," Olsen said in his opening statement, "that we’re here tonight, in the middle of July, in a recall election...We were go to Madison and make some tough decisions."
Olsen is right. What's good for the state is for the democratic process to play out—certainly, voters knew what they were doing when they voted these legislators into office and the legislature is ultimately accountable to him. But to wasting hundreds of hours and thousands in taxpayer dollars for what basically amounts to sour grapes is not what the people signed up for.

And it's especially bad when kids are used as a scapegoat to fuel that agenda.

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

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