James Madison Institute public policy director Robert Sanchez was a busy man two days before Christmas. His first order of business was in contributing to a Tallahassee Democrat piece which touted school choice as” the civil rights issue of this era.”
Sanchez has obviously staked out a position which choice trumps all. Its a difficult one at times to defend when confronted by realities. Choice or “too choose” is such an ill-defined thing. For choice at-all-cost advocates like Sanchez, it ultimately presumes that some combination of federal-state-local governments will be providing universal school choice. At some point equating choice with civil rights will become absurd to the casual observer.
Sanchez and I agree on one thing. Its time to shudder to federal department of education. Our reasons are just different. More from Sanchez:
Sanchez said the proper federal role should be assuring equality of opportunity and protection of civil rights by the Justice Department, not measurement by the DOE. “What is arguably not needed any more, if it ever was, is an immense federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., kowtowing to the teachers unions and creating a blizzard of paperwork for bloated state-level bureaucracies that, in turn, flood local school districts with demands for even more paperwork,” said Sanchez. “Except for the Justice Department’s proper role, the feds ought to butt out and allow the (states) to do their work.”
I actually hope that Sanchez believes that nonsense about the DOE “kowtowing” to the teachers unions. But its so 1970′s. Any closeness that might have been there ended with George W. Bush’s and Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind in 2000. Arne Duncan’s DOE is staffed by corporate ed reformers and folks who operate as go-betweens with hedge funders. If Sanchez knows his words to be political rhetoric, then he’s effectively slandering the state’s teachers under the guise of organization named after our 4th President and a man considered to be “the father of the U.S. Constitution.”
Nonetheless, Sanchez’s rhetoric – regardless his grasp of realities – is extremely hostile to teachers. He’s not alone and nor is his message. Sanchez joins what’s become a coordinated and deliberately misleading attack on teachers for opposing a repeal of the Blaine Amendment. His second effort of the day in the Democrat was titled, “Unions Find Use for Blaine Amendments Bigotry.”
Sanchez does a good job of taking readers through history from post civil war Jim Crow and anti-Catholic bigotry to the birth of the Blaine Amendment. But he somehow uses this history lesson to assigning teachers a subtle bigotry label for opposing Blaine’s repeal.
What a shame, then, that the main impetus for keeping this relic of post-Civil War anti-Catholic bigotry in Florida’s Constitution is coming from a union purporting to represent the people who teach our kids.
Sanchez isn’t being intellectually honest by not admitting that Blaine’s repeal was passed with the intent to expand vouchers and provoke a challenge. This from last month’s article in The Nation about Patricia Levesque:
Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”
A well-connected wonk like Sanchez was well aware of this and his piece is evidence that he’s part of the coordinated smear campaign against teachers. As Levesque works for Jeb Bush, its quite obvious that he, too was aware of the Blaine repeal decoy when he came out with this statement:
“Amendment 7 is not about vouchers. It is about providing Floridians high-quality public services (social, healthcare, and education), irrespective of the provider’s religious affiliation. The amendment simply aligns the Florida Constitution with protections that already exist in the U.S. Constitution. Unions are more interested in protecting political monopolies than ensuring every Floridian has access to the high-quality services that best fit their needs. By making this about vouchers and educational choice, the teachers unions are again proving they care more about power than equipping Sunshine State students for success.”
So the Blaine repeal was advanced under false pretenses and its propaganda coordinated. Sanchez and Levesque are political hacks, but a man of Bush’s stature engaging in such a propaganda campaign against the state’s teachers gives pause. Has he ever been asked “to what ends?” Bush is afterall someone who is considered to be presidential timber – breathlessly by some. Participation in such a disingenuous narrative should disqualify him.