Friday, July 29, 2011

With D.C Already Allergic to Compromise, Even the States Are Catching the Bug

The ongoing debate about reaching a deal to raise the debt ceiling has, for many Americans, more starkly than ever made the case as to the declining state of our ability to compromise. That this debate has dragged on so long, and produced so little, has created many more Washington cynics than the large number that already existed before these "negotiations" began.

But an inability to cooperate is not simply a symptom of politicians in the nation's capital. Buoyed by the fire that was lit in February during Wisconsin's collective bargaining debate, legislators and lobbyists in the Badger State have been unable to solve their problems with each other, too. Instead, they brought forth a set of costly recall elections (for which both parties are responsible) that effectively served as an admission that compromise was impossible.

And when earlier this month we saw two traditional political foes in the state join together in the name of education reform, we were optimistic about how the education conversation might proceed from here.

Unfortunately, last night proved we still have a ways to go.

At an information forum in Racine last night, attendees—many of whom were parents—intent on obtaining information about the newly-expanded school voucher program in the city had to instead contend with what devolved into a debate about the merits of policy that was already in place. A local newspaper article has more:

An information forum held Thursday night on how families could take advantage of vouchers this coming school year quickly turned into a debate about the pros and cons of voucher programs. Attendees questioning voucher panel members argued with them so much that [Racine Taxpayers Association] Program Director George Meyers had to grab the microphone and moderate questions. 
“Ma’am, this is not a debate and you’re debating,” Meyers told Jennifer Levie, a Fratt Elementary School teacher who asked voucher panel members how the voucher program could do any good when it takes money away from public schools.
As [State Rep. Robin] Vos answered other questions during the forum, at Gateway Technical College, 1001 S. Main St., he was repeatedly heckled. At one point a man yelled that Vos was a moron over and over while another man yelled over and over for the first man to shut up.

These are the kinds of interactions we want to get rid of, both in Washington and in the states. But we're still optimistic, because who knows? Maybe we'll be able to solve the debt ceiling mess amicably, educate parents about school choice without heckling, and calmly discuss the merits of those issuesand many morewithout bringing our level of discourse down into the mud.

Or at least we'll keep trying!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice

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