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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Douglas MacKinnon Columns
COLUMN

Voucher lawsuit leaves Florida’s kids in a lurch

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Seriously, what did poor and disadvantaged Florida schoolchildren ever do to the statewide teachers union and its special interest protectors for them to potentially condemn these innocent children to a life of misery?

The union, in concert with trial lawyers and others trying to deny or excuse failing public schools and massive amounts of wasted taxpayer money, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s school voucher program.

This has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting an incompetent, entrenched establishment. These poor school children are nothing more than disposable pawns being tossed aside by those who are the true enemies of education.

Pun intended, none of this is academic to me. When I was a child, I was often hungry and barely existing in endless dysfunction. During those years, I was jerked from school to school as my family was continually evicted. Sometimes I attended as many as six schools in a year. During that chaos, I also got to experience the difference between under-performing public schools and over-performing parochial schools located in poor neighborhoods. The education in the parochial schools was far superior. While it wasn’t called a voucher at the time, I was able to attend some of these parochial schools because of the kindness of the school or the generosity of those who donate.

Some of these poor and desperate Florida children are also going to faith-based schools. And that may be the larger sin as far as some on the left attacking these vouchers are concerned. Of course, no one supporting vouchers should be surprised by this reaction from the left in a day when liberal teachers and professors are literally punishing students who utter the words, “bless you,” to another student who sneezes.

Now, the teachers union wants to punish almost 70,000 poor school children. Surely there must be some liberals or Democrats who are willing to call this lawsuit unconscionable and nothing more than a political payoff. Surely, there are some Democrats and liberals who will stand with the children whose futures are at stake.

Some educators like to throw this cliché around: “If we can make a positive difference in the life of one child, then that will be reward enough.” Well, these vouchers are not only making a positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of children, but in the lives of their parents as well. Many of them, of course, are single mothers.

Maybe I missed the news release, but when did poor single mothers and minority parents become expendable to Democrats, trial lawyers and the teachers union? Don’t they claim them as their core constituency? Aren’t they the voice for those who so often can’t speak for themselves?

Maybe the parents of these 70,000 children should band together and counter-sue the teachers union and the public school system for taking their hard-earned tax money and “unconstitutionally” forcing their children to attend dysfunctional schools populated by failing teachers.

Those trying to make a political statement and protect the teachers union at the expense of these children are disgraceful. Of course, this selfish action comes as no surprise. This is the same union that backed teachers suing the state because they didn’t want to be evaluated and also sued the state because — horrors of horrors — the Legislature passed a bill requiring the teachers to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their own pensions for life.

Maybe the state should increase that contribution to 5 percent and use that money to help these children. Or better yet, simply eliminate the pensions altogether.

After all, the teachers and their union put the children first. Don’t they?

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