Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Updated May 26, 1:30 am and then again on May 26 at 12:00 pm.

Politics, School Choice and Hypocrisy: How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see.

I interviewed Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. a week ago and the show is airing this week in the suburbs and next Monday night, May 31, at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 through-out the city of Chicago. The blog entry below the instant blog entry discusses the show in much more detail. Cong. Jackson was charming, interesting and articulate and I hope he is not offended by this note, as I genuinely like him, respect him and hope he returns to the show.

However, I wouldn't respect myself in the morning if I didn't write this note. I was struck when I read the quote, below [even more so than when I heard it on the show], of the contrast between the school choice his own parents exercised and his unwillingness to support, at least conceptually, choice for his constituents and by his vote, choice for low income parents in DC. Even more striking, his parents sent him to one of the most elite private high schools in DC (St. Albans, known for also instructing former Veep Gore, Senator Kerry and President Bush's younger brothers Neil and Marvin), after Jackson attended an Indiana Military academy (Le Mans) in grades 7-8, and Jackson states that there was no hypocrisy because his parents paid taxes "to insure that high quality schools exist for other children." What high quality public schools could he be referring to-- for DC? for Chicago? And if there are a few, what percentage of the DC or Chicago students can they accommodate? More to the point, I would like to know which of Jackson's constituents would turn down a 10K school voucher that would allow his kid to exit one of Jackson's tax supported public schools.

And the kicker, as Sneed would say-- it is left to Jeff Berkowitz to explain to Jesse Jackson, Jr. that parents in Jesse's District can't really afford to finance and choose St. Albans, but they could have a 10K school choice voucher in Chicago (which they would love to have) if Cong. Jackson would put his considerable leadership skills to work on behalf of school vouchers/school choice. And, that takes no shift in political power. We could do it tomorrow with no increase in taxes to anyone.

Instead, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. promotes his constitutional amendment, which at best might become a part of the U. S. Constitution by the year, say, 2050, and then what-- the Amendment will require that we tax the relatives of Bush, Kerry, Gore and Jackson, Jr. who will continue the family tradition of attending St. Albans. The power elite, so to speak. That is, we ramp up federal taxes to get the funds to increase federal aid to education, so we can ship more tax dollars to more failing public schools to do what? to level the playing field?

These additional tax dollars will reach the current crop of kids entering the CPS when they are 51 years old. That is, just in time, at best, to help their grandkids. Well, maybe better late than never, but I think they would rather get the help tomorrow, May 27, or at least in time to start the Fall, 2004-05 academic year. I have a different vision-- indeed, I have a dream: Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. announces tomorrow, May 27, 2004, that he would like to see, for starters, every parent in the CPS given a backpack with a 10 K school voucher in it to be used, this fall, at the school of the parent's choice. The parents rejoice, shouting, "Free at last, Free at last, thank God Almighty, Free at last." Finally, Freedom to Choose.

Now, Cong. Jackson supported Howard Dean for President. And, Dean told Cong. Jackson and everyone else, "You have the Power." And, that is one thing Howard got right, at least with respect to Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Cong. Jackson has the Power.

Finally, there are many other pols out there, about whom we could make the same argument and who also have the Power. But, worse for them and us, e.g. AG Lisa Madigan [previously of the Latin School], they decline to come on "Public Affairs." Winnetka (or Skokie we imagine)is way too far to travel-- for a statewide official from Chicago-- we are told by Lisa's press aide. Lisa Madigan, and those pols like her, are not anxious to debate the issues and they don't seem to be rushing to support school choice--at least, not for those with less money than their parents had. On the other hand, someone like Cong. Jackson, who may differ with me on school choice, does not shy away from discussing and debating any issue and for that we respect and applaud the Congressman.

Jeff Berkowitz: No, but answer that question. I am not critical of your parents looking for a quality education [for you, in Washington, DC] but they opted out of an inferior public school to send you to a private school [St. Albans]

Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: Not true.
Jackson: My parents made the best decision for their child that they could possibly make and at no point in time did they stop paying taxes into the public education system. And so, to that extent, my parents already have a choice: to put me in the school of their choice-- but they never stopped paying taxes to insure that high quality schools exist for other children.

Berkowitz: Many of the parents in your District are earning $20,000 or $30,000; they don't have the income that your parents have [and had]; therefore they can't opt out and go to the private schools that might do a better job of teaching these kids how to read, write and do math. Try it, [all we are ssying is]just give choice a chance. You know that phrase.

Jackson: [Laughter] Jeff, thanks for having me.
Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D- 2nd Cong. Dist), interviewed on "Public Affairs, filmed on May 16, 2004, and as is being cablecast this week in the suburbs and as will be cablecast on Memorial Day through-out the City of Chicago on Cable Ch. 21 at 8:30 pm.