Monday, May 24, 2010

School Choice Championed From a Most Unusual Source

The letter reads like a conservative manifesto both in its honest analysis of the government school's lousy performance and in its rousing call for school voucher programs as one of the ways to help fix the problem.

But it's not from a conservative organization at all. In fact, you're going to very surprised at the letter's origin.

But first -- take a look at some of the specific passages:

"The evidence that our public education system is failing to educate our children is staggering ... high rates of illiteracy, an unacceptable number of high school dropouts and the widening achievement gap between white and minority students merely scratch the surface."

"Despite dramatically increasing the amount of money spent on K-12 education over the past several decades -- per pupil expenditures have increased by 53.6 percent (after adjusting for inflation) -- student performance is abysmal."

The letter goes on to counter the "common myth that school-voucher programs drain financial resources, as well as the best and brightest students from public schools." by showing that "the evidence proves otherwise. Research on voucher programs' effects on the finances of public schools shows that these programs actually save money at both the state and local level. Furthermore, as a recent study by the Brookings Institution indicates, these programs do not 'cream' the best students from the public school system."

But it's not just the liberal Brookings Institution that the letter cites. It refers to nine different studies of the impact of vouchers on public schools and concludes they're all quite positive. "School-choice programs complement public education by spurring the public system, as a result of competition, to perform better. No study has found that school choice makes public schools worse."

Sets forth a pretty good case for school choice, doesn't it? But again, this letter is not from the Heritage Foundation or the Claire Boothe Luce Institute or Focus on the Family.

It comes from the Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League!

Could this be the beginning of a sea change on this crucial issue? Cal Thomas thinks it just might be. Check out his intriguing column from the weekend Washington Examiner.