Op-Ed Disinformation On Education

9 March 2005

Craig Cantoni clearly assesses the slanted disinformation provided in two recent op-ed pieces about the state of public education. As usual, it’s a critical thinker’s treasure.

Teacher union and advocacy group in disingenuousness contest
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 8, 2005

The Arizona Education Association (a teacher union) and the Children’s Action Alliance (a left-liberal advocacy group) had a contest in The Arizona Republic yesterday to see who could be the most disingenuous and spread the most disinformation. You be the judge and pick the winner.

Carol Kamin, the CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, wrote an op-ed on “early childhood education.” Andrew Morrill, the president of the teacher union, wrote a companion op-ed on two voucher bills being considered in the Arizona legislature. Let’s begin with Morrill’s disinformation.

Morrill claimed that if the bills become law, “parents who intend to send their children to private schools from the very beginning come away with $49,500 plus inflation at the taxpayer’s expense.” Morrill didn’t say that the $49,500 belongs to private school parents to begin with, not to the state. Moreover, the amount represents only 26 percent of what they pay in education taxes.

Let me explain: The government takes $190,000 from the heads of the average household in Arizona over their adult lives. If it returns $49,500 of that amount, or 26 percent, to private school parents, that still leaves a whopping $140,000 that private school parents contribute to the coffers of public education and to Morrill’s union members.

Let’s look now at the contribution of public school parents with two children in government schools. It will cost the government schools $216,000 to educate the two children. Since the parents will contribute $190,000 in public education taxes over their adult lives, that leaves a deficit of $26,000 that has to be picked up by other taxpayers.

Here is a multiple-choice math question for Morrill: Who is contributing more to public education? a) private school parents, or b) public school parents.

Morrill said nothing about the United States being the only Western democracy that forces parochial parents to pay double for education in order to exercise their right of religious freedom. For example, in addition to the $190,000 that my wife and I will pay in public education taxes, we will pay about $60,000 to give our son 12 years of Catholic education. By comparison, it would cost public schools $9,000 a year, or $108,000, to give our son 12 years of inferior education.

Morrill said that “Catholic schools turn away nearly two out of three applicants.” He didn’t say that the statistic applies to Catholic college prep schools, not elementary schools. Nor did he say that Catholic schools accept non-Catholic students whose parents are fed up with public schools, and that an adequate number of Catholic schools would be built to meet the demand if parents didn’t have to sacrifice dearly to pay public education taxes in addition to parochial tuition. Of course, he also was silent about the fact that one of the reasons that the public education movement was begun in the mid-nineteenth century was to stop the growth of parochial schools and to teach Catholics the St. James Bible.

Let’s turn to Kamin’s disinformation.

In writing about the glories of “free” preschool, Kamin conveniently said nothing about the billions already wasted on such programs and the fact that preschool will not address the root causes of poor academic achievement, especially among Hispanics and blacks.

One of the best scholarly studies on the subject is the book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom. One chapter is entitled, “The Sad Story of Head Start.” And what a sad story it is.

The authors say that since 1965, 20 million children have gone through Head Start, at a cost of $60 billion. Currently, nearly one million children are in Head Start, at a per-child cost of $6,600. Incidentally, that is twice what my wife and I pay in parochial school tuition for our eighth-grade son.

The authors then discuss the “dismal results” of Head Start, detailing how the modest benefits of Head Start fade away in elementary school. This follows chapter after chapter showing conclusively that two of the root causes of poor academic achievement are the increase in single-parent families since the advent of the Great Society program in 1965 and the culture of low expectations among blacks and Hispanics, a culture that is the opposite of the culture among Asians.

Kamin does not explain how free babysitting, er, preschool, will decrease the number of single-parent families and turn the culture around.

So what is your vote? Who was the most disingenuous, Kamin or Morrill? I say it was a tie.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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