Monday, January 15, 2007

Watch Spirit of M. L. King, Jr. Day: School Vouchers-School Choice.

Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day by watching “Public Affairs,” tonight. The show, featuring State Rep. Paul Froehlich [R-Schaumburg], airs throughout the City of Chicago tonight at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21. For more about the show, a partial transcript and a link to our cinema page, which gives you the Freedom to Choose from 25 archived shows, including tonight’s Froehlich show, and to watch any of them “on demand,” on your computer, [Go here].

Tonight show links, in a sense, from Rep. Froehlich, who has raised the issue of the insufficient intersection of racial justice and the Republican Party [See here], to President Reagan to School Vouchers-School Choice to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Notwithstanding that nice, easy linkage, State Rep. Froehlich declines to connect the dots. Who would have thunk it? Maybe Rep. Froehlich will take the Freedom Leap another day, another time. We can only hope.
On the first national Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day [1986], President Ronald Reagan, that great champion of freedom of choice for all and especially for minorities as a way of achieving “the Dream,” spoke of the special importance of school vouchers-school choice for those who live in poor areas:

So, we've done some boat lifting the past few years, but it's still not enough. We can do better. …in education, we propose the educational voucher system in which families that live in poor areas can use vouchers to send their children to any of a number of schools, whichever they think is doing better. No reason parents shouldn't be given more freedom of choice, and no reason schools shouldn't compete for students. [See here]

President Reagan well understood the importance of the competition brought forth by school vouchers as a mechanism especially important to those trying to acquire the intellectual skills necessary to overcome racial prejudice and exit poverty. The free market, when assisted by school vouchers, would be the great equalizer for low income people in general, but especially for minorities who suffered from “separate but equal,” for a century after the Civil War and for the last half century from shoddy, underperforming public schools.

Now is the time to try freedom of choice in education. Hard to see how it could be any worse than the status quo for those kids of low income parents in public schools and very likely would make life for them much better. Dr. King, who would be 78 today, I think would join President Reagan and say, “Let our children go.”

But, on this one, State Rep. Paul Froehlich, who was a big time supporter of Jack Ryan [noted for his support of school vouchers] is no Jack Ryan Republican. Nor is Froehlich a Reagan Republican on the use of school vouchers-school choice to achieve racial and economic justice. ***************************************************************************
Jeff Berkowitz: …Is education another example where the Republican Party [in your mind] is on the wrong side in not being sensitive, in [not] being racist. Because you talk about disparities in education funding [across different neighborhoods that vary in socio-economic class] and you say that disproportionately affects racial minorities, so you want to change that—do you want to buy into the idea of a tax swap [For example, one variant of HB750, proposed last year, purportedly would have lowered the property tax and raised and expanded the base of the state income tax, resulting in a net increase of state tax revenue of at least four billion dollars/year with about two billion dollars going to additional state education funding].

Rep. Paul Froehlich: I am looking for some solution to reduce that disparity. We’ve got the biggest disparity in the country between rich and poor districts when it comes to spending; we’ve have maybe the second biggest disparity between blacks and whites in test scores. And, we can reduce that problem.

Jeff Berkowitz: We have a lot of blacks and a lot of minorities in non-performing schools right here in the City of Chicago, right?

Rep. Paul Froehlich: That’s right.

Jeff Berkowitz: And a number in the suburbs. But, in the City of Chicago at least one of every two kids probably is in a failing school.

Rep. Paul Froehlich: Um-um.

Jeff Berkowitz: Some people in the Republican Party want to give people school vouchers, some school choice, let them an exit from those schools.

Rep. Paul Froehlich: Um-um.

Jeff Berkowitz: And eighty five percent of the kids in the Chicago Public Schools are minorities, so they be would beneficially affected by school choice-school vouchers, so the argument goes. Do you agree?

Rep. Paul Froehlich[R-Schaumburg]: The kind of choice that we have in Chicago and we could get more of has to do with charter schools.

Jeff Berkowitz: So you would like to expand charter schools?

Rep. Paul Froehlich: Yeah, Chicago has thirty [charter schools].

Jeff Berkowitz: But, why not give people the chance to go? Give them the eleven thousand dollars—that’s what we spend now in the city of Chicago, more than $11,000 per kid, per year [Actually, it is more than $12,000]-- give them a voucher that says if you aren’t satisfied with the Chicago Public Schools, if there aren’t enough charter schools as alternatives, you may go to the private school of your choice. And minorities would be disproportionately benefited. Let’s focus on the city of Chicago. You want a justice system? You want an equity system? You know, it might be twenty years before you can change how much money is given to minorities. You could change [their choices] tomorrow if you can get people in the House and Senate to agree with you. You want to work on that program?

Rep. Paul Froehlich: I don’t think Illinois is likely to embark on-

Jeff Berkowitz: You know, there was Jim Crow legislation in the South, and people would say, “I don’t think we’re likely to get rid of Jim Crow legislation.” And some heroic blacks and whites stood up and changed the world [or, at least the United States].

Rep. Paul Froehlich: Right.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is it time for Paul Froehlich and others to change the world in the [Illinois] State Legislature, even though you look at it and say it’s an uphill battle?

Rep. Paul Froehlich: I’m looking for the kind of change that’s politically feasible.

Jeff Berkowitz: So Martin Luther King, Jr.—you’re telling me he just said, “I’m looking for what’s politically feasible,”—and that’s what guided him? Are you telling me that’s what Martin Luther King did? Because we want to be with his spirit here [tonight].

Rep. Paul Froehlich: Martin Luther King—I think he understood something about political realities.

Jeff Berkowitz: He did? I thought he actually did what was right and what was just and said, “I’m going to do what’s necessary and use civil disobedience to change the world,” and he did. Maybe it’s time for Republicans to take that path. But you’re not going there?

Rep. Paul Froehlich: I’m not.

[Dr. Martin Luther King was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a group created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King continued to dominate the organization. King was an adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully in India by Mahatma Gandhi, and he applied this philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC. See discussion here.]
State Rep. Paul Froehlich [R], as is airing tonight on Public Affairs [8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21, CANTV] on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs. The show was recorded on Dec. 27, 2006. You may also[watch the Paul Froehlich program here].
Draft of above transcript prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at