Only a thoroughgoing grinch, one might suppose, would find fault with the Bush administration's proposal to help all Katrina kids find a safe place to go to school this year. The administration will offer up to $7,500 per displaced student to cover education costs. Naturally and properly, some of these funds will find their way to private schools, as have the children displaced by the hurricane. About a quarter of all students in the areas hit by the hurricane previously attended private (mostly Catholic) schools - a cultural artifact of the region's strong French-Catholic roots and, it must be said, also a consequence of the lackluster public schools that surrounded many of them. When families fled to Baton Rouge or Lafayette or Houston, many naturally wanted to put their children in educational environments that felt familiar. Besides, local public schools are busting at the seams, in no small part because of the influx of Katrina survivors. Allowing beleaguered parents to choose the best educational environment for their children is a good example of what David Brooks calls "Bushian Conservatism": energetic but not domineering government. So what's the problem? "This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers," said Senator Ted Kennedy in a statement. He's right. There should be no debate - and he should show the way by shutting his yap. This is a time to focus on the needs of kids, not the parochial interests of the education system's special interests (for especially appalling statements, see here, here, and here). A simple rule: let's work to help all families return to a sense of normalcy, no matter what their educational preference or religion. And let's ensure all those kids a school year that ends better than it started.
"Public Bailout, Private Agenda?" by David Van Biema, Time, September 26, 2005
"A Bushian Laboratory," by David Brooks, The New York Times, September 18, 2005
"School vouchers intended as temporary aid," by Greg Toppo, USA Today, September 21, 2005