By Tony Russell

Conservatives have been smacking their lips, hardly able to wait to wade into the trough, now that Mr. Bush has been handed the Presidency. One of their expectations is that school vouchers will become the foundation of Mr. Bush's education policy. The implications of such a profound shift in educational funding are enormous--and conservatives carefully conceal the implications, while touting the virtues of choice. After all, who could oppose offering people more choices?

The first implication is that money will be drained from public school systems, which are, for the most part, already strapped for funds. And we're not talking about minor amounts; we're talking about billions of dollars. The people left behind in the public system will have fewer resources, fewer teachers, and fewer offerings than they already have.

The second implication is that voucher programs will amount to billions of dollars of subsidies for right-wing fundamentalist programs--which, with the Catholic parochial schools, make up the vast majority of non-public schools in the country. In effect, the government would be subsidizing the religious and political indoctrination of enormous numbers of children, using public funds to produce more Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, and Oliver Norths.

Conservatives claim that blacks overwhelmingly support voucher programs. I don't know where they get their figures. In the election just concluded, blacks organized voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns, then turned out in record numbers to vote 9-to-1 against Mr. Bush. Hardly a ringing endorsement of vouchers!

With large scale voucher programs, the people stuck in weakened, depleted public schools will be even more heavily black and Hispanic. The claim that blacks support voucher programs is especially ironic given that the explosion of so-called Christian schools in this country dates from the Supreme Court decision desegregating public schools. Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education led to a mass exodus from public schools by the good white folk of the Southland. In great numbers, they suddenly, simultaneously discovered that their children needed to have Christian values instilled in private, segregated Christian academies.

Such institutions spread like a cancer to other parts of the country. It is these schools, firmly rooted in bigotry and hypocrisy, which are the intended beneficiaries of school voucher programs. That thousands of well-intentioned, honorable parents have also enrolled their children in such schools mitigates neither their history nor their impact.

The truth is that any governmental program which works for the benefit of the public at large will be attacked by conservatives, who will want to privatize it in some way because the beneficiaries of the privatization will be their white, well-to-do constituencies, and because the conservative movement, at its heart, is profoundly elitist and anti-democratic.

Social security has been the most successful social program in U.S. history; Bush and his conservative cronies want to give you more choices, thereby undermining the funding for the general population. Government health insurance, they scream, is socialized medicine; they give you HMOs, which celebrated the New Year by dumping almost a million of the elderly and most dependent from their roles. They want to give everybody a tax cut, but in dollar amounts, the tax cut turns out to be massively tilted toward the wealthy.

School voucher programs work the same way; undermine the public institution, and help finance the political and religious base of the right.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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