Kindred spirits? Not likely.
Brad Warthen, editorial page editor at the State Newspaper, is a zealous critic of school choice.
As a journalist for the South Carolina first (soon to be second) most read daily newspaper, Warthen should know all about the stagnant SAT and ACT scores, huge and expanding income and race-based performance gaps, a worsening 158-per day statewide dropout problem, and a shocking $11,480 in per student spending in South Carolina’s public schools.
Still, Brad is totally committed to insulating these schools from competition, and ensuring that low and middle income families do not gain access to the choices more wealthy families enjoy.
One of Brad’s more recent -if not more thoughtful- arguments against parental choice was based on a tasteless analogy between Islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden and Howard Rich, a reform minded philanthropist who supports school choice.
Now, in a predictable criticism of John McCain’s nomination speech, Brad has blessed his readers with a more robust musing on K-12 education policy.
Recapping McCain’s remarks on schools, Brad notes:
“The passage about education was just embarrassing, a wipeout of stupendous proportions. In almost the same breath, [McCain] promised the ideologues who hate public schools their “choice” and then implied he’d improve public schools by renewing the teacher corps — attracting and rewarding the best, running off the worst.”
And then Brad’s insightful commentary on this passage:
“Let me give you two clues, John: First, the American taxpayer will never foot the bill for both turning around failing public schools and paying people to leave them; it’s one or the other. Second, Ronald Reagan had it right — the federal government has no business trying to run our schools.”
Brad’s esteem of Reagan is well founded in this case. Reagan is known for proposing a tuition tax credit in 1982 as part of push for reducing the role of government administration in education. Reagan wisely explained:
“The overwhelming majority of so-called private schools are church-supported—Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. The majority of students are from families earning less than $25,000. In some of our large cities, 40 percent of the parochial school students are from minority neighborhoods. Their families pay their full share of taxes to fund the public schools. How high would those taxes go for everyone if those parents decided to send their children to public schools? I think they’re entitled to some relief since they’re supporting two school systems and only using one.”
Whether Brad’s three-left-turns-make-a-right-turn logic was an accident, or a thoughtful reexamination of the rights of parents, we salute Brad Warthen for his support of universal educational options.
We can only hope he is willing to embrace the broader limited government and economic freedom perspective of Reagan as well.