April 29, 2009
Say you're a parent in a school district whose population is largely Haitian, African-American, and Hispanic. And say this district's board is dominated by Orthodox Jews who don't send their children to public schools and aren't happy about paying both high taxes and huge private school tuition bills. And say the board just voted to close an under-enrolled district school to curb costs. That's the scenario playing out in East Ramapo and Lawrence, New York, to the predictable ire of public-school parents. As one put it, America operates on the principle of "governance with the consent of the governed" and these parents are not consenting. But this is simply an exaggerated example of the old problem of parents versus taxpayers; at any given time, only 20 percent of the U.S. population has children in the public school system, yet everybody pays for that system. Should the parent minority be able to overrule the other 80 percent who are just as financially invested in the system as those whose kids currently benefit from it? One might reasonably suggest to those York parents: if you don't like the decisions being made by your local government, get yourselves elected and make different ones.
"Rancor Where Private-School Parents Make Public-School Decisions," by Peter Applebome, New York Times, April 25, 2009