Monday, July 26, 2004

Updated July 26, 2004, 8:10 pm, revised at 11:20 pm

School Choice Alert: Turn to Cable Ch. 21 at 8:30 pm tonight in the City of Chicago. Holmes v. Berkowitz, Don’t miss it or you will be sorry.

Are you are getting ready to watch Mr. Bill at 9:00 pm tonight? If so, take a page from our former President, Bill Clinton, and live on the edge for a half hour. That is, watch Brenda Holmes [Blago’s education guru], throughout the City of Chicago, go toe to toe with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21. [See partial transcript, below, of tonight’s exciting show].

Brenda Holmes, Blagojevich’s education guru, declines to take a silver bullet to improve failing inner city schools. Instead, she rejects the argument that School Choice/School Vouchers is a silver bullet.

Next Week's guest on the City of Chicago edition of "Pubic Affairs," is
the Candidate for the U. S. Senate from Illinois, Barack Obama (D- Chicago). We guarantee it, unlike yesterday's fawning Sunday morning talk shows with a preponderance of soft balls, we throw almost all hard balls to Barack, giving our viewers a chance to judge his intellectual dexterity and decide for themselves if he has any vulnerabilities. We pitch, Barack swings and you decide.

This week's (Tonight, July 26, 8:30 pm) City of Chicago edition of "Public Affairs," features Brenda Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education to Governor Rod Blagojevich, debating and discussing with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz various education topics, including Out with the old, in with the new State Board of Education Members; firing State Board of Members on a showing of incompetence, malfeasance or neglect; trying to making the state educational bureaucracy more user friendly; Could Gov. Blagojevich have made the state educational bureaucracy more user friendly with his proposed conversion of the independent Board of Education to a Governor controlled agency? Are the customers of the Board of Education the teachers or the parents of students? Discretion with state education expenditures- Who has it? School choice- who should have (or have had) such choice? Rev. Jesse Jackson, Gov. Blagojevich, and/or low income minority parents in failing inner city public schools? Improving teacher competency-has it been done? School vouchers, school choice- A silver bullet to improve education for inner city children?
Brenda Holmes: After the last twenty years and the debate over how schools should be funded, there has been no magic bullet that has been proposed and every proposal that has been put forward, and there have been at least five or six in the last twenty years, five or six serious ones- they have all involved raising billions of dollars.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, there is no magic bullet, but here is one- let me see what you think of this. We have this backpack here for a purpose—

Holmes: I have heard about your backpack.

Berkowitz: So, take the City of Chicago, where it is still basically true … [that only] one out of three kids is reading at grade level, two out of three are not. Now, the numbers have gotten a little better, but those numbers are still a pretty good guide, those numbers were thrown out by Mayor Daley three years ago as the [right] numbers [if we] focus on the City of Chicago, but I think you could talk about the same experiment with Decatur and a variety of other areas through-out the state, [such as] Cairo, where we have low performing schools. Or, let’s put it that way—we, at least, have kids who are not learning how to read, write and do math at the levels we would like. I think you and I would agree with that. In the City of Chicago, we spend $11,000, counting capital costs, per kid, per year. If you don’t count capital costs…it is about $10,000. You have about 435,000 students in the City of Chicago. Go to each parent—you could sponsor this, you are in a position to do this, you could say to the Governor- you know, we should give these people some school choice, put that $10,000 in the backpack…and go to every parent of those 435,000 students, and here is a backpack-- you take that backpack and you go to the parents and say if you are happy with …your public school, you can stay there. But, if you are not happy with your public school, you can take that $10,000 and go to the private school of your choice. The market would work. Private schools would be created right in the area, so we don’t have to bus kids anywhere. If they wanted to they could go 10 miles [away, or further], but markets tend to respond, and if the kid [and the parent] left the public school to go to a private school—out goes the kid, out goes the backpack, strapped on the kid’s back. Out goes the money to the private school that is providing the service. What was the word you used? Something about a bullet?

Holmes: Magic silver bullet.

Berkowitz: Silver bullet. There is no silver bullet [you said]. School vouchers, school choice, a silver bullet to promote competition, innovation, choice, all good things, and we are going to continue to speak as the credits roll, but I very much want to thank Brenda Holmes…we are almost out of time again—

Holmes: I can’t believe that we are out of time—

Berkowitz: But, you will get the last word because you can tell us, Brenda Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education for Governor Rod Blagojevich, what is wrong with school choice? Giving parents some freedom, some choice. Providing them [parents] with competition, innovation.

Holmes: We don’t have enough time, Jeff, for me to talk to you about those particular issues. We do have a public school system. It was designed to educate students who want to be educated in the public schools. There are choices for parents, indeed, to educate their children in private schools. But, we believe the public school is the best place for them to be.

Berkowitz: But, they [the public schools] are failing. How is a parent worse off [under school vouvhers]? [Suppose] I am a parent; I am in the city of Chicago and my school is failing me. [Currently], if I want to stay there, I can. But, if I want to leave, I can’t. I mean, Al Gore left [to go to the elite St. Albans private school in Washington, D.C.]. Cong. Jesse Jackson left. Rev. Jesse Jackson sent his kid, Cong. Jackson, to [the elite] St. Albans [in Washington D.C. when Jesse Jr. was a kid]. Why are high income people [treated] better so they should get a choice. [Governor] Rod Blagojevich- I think his daughter goes to a [private] Montessori school.

Holmes: She does.

Berkowitz: [Gov. Blagojevich] exercises choice. Why should Rod Blagojevich’s kid have choice when other low income kids do not?

Holmes: I think the entire school choice movement has been successful in Chicago with the charter schools that the system has--

Berkowitz: A pittance. 45 charter schools across the state [actually, I was wrong. In actuality, there are only 23].

Holmes: And, more to be created.

Berkowitz: You are talking 2 % of the kids. What about the other 200,000 kids [in failing schools] in the City of Chicago who don’t have that choice? Don’t you folks care?

Holmes: Of course we care.

Berkowitz: Give them choice!

Holmes: Well, I appreciate hearing your opinion. I will be sure to share that with the Governor.

Berkowitz: Well, I hope you do. But, I am serious. What’s wrong with that choice? I mean, I don’t understand it. I know the Governor cares. He wants to improve education. He wants to help people. It would be remarkable. It would also make him popular, don’t you think?

Holmes: No, I don’t. Because I don’t think the statistics have borne out on any type of separate systems for a public school education.
Brenda Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education to Governor Rod Blagojevich, interviewed on “Public Affairs,” as recorded on July 8, 2004, and as is being cablecast this evening through-out the City of Chicago at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV].