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Don Gale misses the point on school choice

Last Saturday, Don Gale wrote an op-ed in the Deseret Morning News in opposition to school choice. This should surprise no one, considering Gale's consistently liberal positions. For those of you too young to remember, Gale was KSL's editorialist during the 1970s and 1980s.

In the past, we've heard Gale describe conservatives as reactionary and resistant towards progressive change. Ironically, opponents of school choice are the reactionaries, and some of the old definitions of liberal and conservative don't apply to this issue.

Fortunately, Gale did not repeat the erroneous "draining money from public schools" and "fixed costs" arguments nor did he cite the illogical "vouchers are subsidies for private schools" argument, but he did make some unfounded accusations against parents who want school choice and students who are beneficiaries of school choice.

Below are some excerpts (in italics) with our commentary. When reading these statements, keep in mind how American higher education -- which is the epitome of education choice where students are not assigned to a particular college or university based on their residence and where many students receive vouchers (Pell Grants) -- would look if Gale's sentiments regarding K-12 education prevailed in higher education.

- Truly special children perform well academically whether or not they are in special schools, but they become better human beings if they experience a real-world school environment.

Nearly everyone knows that students have different learning styles and that one particular method of instruction cannot possibly be the best for all students. For some, math is easy. For others, math is hard, unless it is taught to them in a particular manner (and there are several ways to teach math). To expect any school -- public, charter, or private -- to teach all students effectively using one particular instructional approach is unreasonable. The math controversy in Alpine School District demonstrates this point. Some parents realize that Alpine's math program is not good for their children and have enrolled their children in one of the many charter schools located in northern Utah County. However, other parents realize that Alpine's math program is great for their children and have decided to keep their children in Alpine schools.

- "Choice" students will grow up thinking they are elite and should associate only with others like themselves. . . [T]he parents want to take their "special" children away from schools where mere ordinary folks congregate.

Unfortunately, Gale plays the elitism card here. However, since the rich can already afford private schools (vouchers are targeted towards low income families) and/or live in neighborhoods with high-achieving district schools, elitism is not the issue. Gale erroneously maintains that the real motivation for these parents is making sure that their children don't associate with the masses of the great unwashed when their real motivation is much more pure and praiseworthy: making sure that their children get the best education possible.

- And proponents either do not understand or do not care that children in every classroom need the academic pacesetters and student leaders who are part of the school choice exodus.

Gale falsely assumes that only the high achievers will go to private or charter schools. The high achievers are actually the most likely to stay in public schools because they are already receiving a good education. Most school choice proponents acknowledge that many students are currently receiving a great education in district schools. School choice is targeted towards those children who are not achieving their academic potential. Moreover, vouchers are targeted towards children in low income families, generally the most difficult and expensive children to educate (that's why Title I funding exists).

- School choice is not the issue. The issue is community involvement.

Actually, the issue is what's best for the individual student. Individual student needs should not be sacrificed on the altar of so-called "community involvement". Parents will actually be more involved in their schools if they have a financially viable choice as to where their students attend school.

I like the tone of this response. Instead of calling public schools failures and inefficient, you acknowledge that public schools are successful in many areas.

Maybe school choice opponents will be less defensive if this is the approach taken.

Your argument is good, but this response was TOO nice, especially considering Dongale's rants against conservatives over the years.

I heard that Dongale ripped into the Utah Taxpayers Association at one of their own conferences several years ago.
Everyone treats him like he's some kind of respected elder statesman. Maybe that was true many years ago, but he's a huckster now.

At least someone has the guts to tell it like it is

http://thewarrenat.blogspot.com/2005/05/dinosaurs-are-bellowing.html

Why can't we wait until education is properly funded, then do vouchers?

Maybe because by definition education will always be underfunded.

Don Gale has lost his mind. Good job on the rebuttal. To answer one of the questions posted as to why we can not wait for education to be "properly funded." One of the main attractions to School choice is the fact that it increases per pupil spending in the public schools AND lowers class size at the same time. When you take a student out of the public school, and only take some of the money alocated for that student for a voucher, the public school gets to keep the difference, for a student they are NOT teaching. Sounds like a win-win!
Besides, when is enough going to be enough? There are states out there that spend up near 10-12k per student per year but have no greater success than we do in Utah.

Carl W

Talk about elitist!! I can't believe the name-calling and belittling by the UTA in this article and the subsequent posts. You start by calling Gale a "liberal" and a "reactionary," and the posts disintergrate into labeling him a "huckster" and even say "he has lost his mind." What kind of response is that to a well-reasoned column that makes some valid points while belittling no one. Maybe the UTA and its followers should remember their elementary school lessons, "If you can't say something nice ..." But then again, maybe you didn't learn that lesson because you were never exposed to the benefits of a diverse school environment where children learn to get along.

Since when is calling someone a "liberal" belittling? My, pretty thin skinned, aren't we?

But it's OK if he calls other people "elitist".

Don Gale has been belittling and demonizing people for years. Read what Gale has to say about Republicans at

http://www.utdemocrats.org/index.php?display=ReleaseDetails&id=555236

Read some of his D-News op-eds for the past couple of years to see what he has to say about conservatives.

I get tired of people who think current and former media people should criticize without being criticized, that they are somehow more equal than the rest of us.

Orwell was right. Some animals are more equal than others.

Gale may have been the nice old man when he was at KSL, but his editorials in recent years have been very aggressive towards those he disagrees with. And that's OK. Just don't expect others to give him a free pass.

Here's another Don Gale piece from the Deseret Morning News.

http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,600131958,00.html

He refers to "misinformed lackeys" and compares conservative talk show material to "Hitler's mind-boggling propaganda. You may agree with him (Gale, not Hitler), but that's not the point. Gale routinely uses belittling and harsh terms when describing his conservative opponents. Remember the old adage: if you can't take it, don't dish it.

Interesting debate. Regarding the last post, I refer you to Godwin's law.

http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/Godwin's_Law

Thanks...Craig.

I actually thought that Taxpayers was being quite kind to Don Gale in their response to his ridiculous op-ed. It was so off the wall, that it almost deserved no response but one of ridicule.

Does he really think that some poor parents in Rose Park who took on second jobs to pay for their kid's education at a private school are "escaping their responsibilities of citizenship," despite the fact that they were getting bullied everyday in their old school and not receiving a quality education even though the school received extra Title I funds? And on top of that, the parents and the kids are happy with their new school, and even excelling, even though the school spends half as much per student than their old public school?

That was a long question, but it's a real fact for hundreds of families across the state and Don just plowed right through it without a second thought.

I think it just shows that the school choice haters are losing the battle, and they know it. They've lost the funding argument, they've lost the one-size-fits-all argument, they've lost the monopoly argument, they've lost the constitutionality argument (but they'll bring it up anyway, quoting the Florida case that has nothing to do with Utah's Constitution), they're losing the "public doesn't support it" argument each day that another parent learns about school choice, they've lost the "vouchers will take away the best students" arguments, they've lost the "public schools can't compete" argument, they've lost the "vouchers will lead to more segregated schools" arguments, and so what arguments are left?

The ridiculous ones...like "parents need to suck it up and take one for the team, even if their kid is doing horrible in school; it's good for the community that kids be stuck in a dead end school that doesn't fit their needs because that's the real world."

Come on. Is that all he has?

And as far as public schools representing the real world goes, since when was the "real world" 94% white and 100% upper and middle class like Skyline or Olympus?

Can you say, BOO-YAH!!

Let's be honest. To say that "school choice" is not elitist is simply false. MANY of my friends and neighbors have moved their kids to charter schools this year. I have discussed it with them. And not surprisingly very few have cited "academics" as the reason behind it. It is almost always for "social" reasons or to take them out of the "negative" environment of public school.

I have chosen to stay in public school because my children have done well academically there. And I am not against school choice. But let's at least be honest about it.

And from your logic, I guess that allowing people to make any choices is elitist, too...such as, which neighborhood you live in.

How can we dare let parents decide that they want their family to be in a kid safe environment!!! That's so horrific. You know, we need the government to provide housing for everyone. Well, unless they're wealthy enough to opt out of the system, but atleast the middle class and poor will be forced to benefit from this wonderful system of deciding where everyone lives. How else will we get families to live on busy, city intersections when if they had a choice, they might choose to live in a suburb where there's less traffic and more playgrounds per household!!!???!!! The thought of parents wanting to put their kids in a safe environment where the chances of being run over by a car while chasing a ball into the street are dramatically decreased!!! It makes me so sick, I can't stand to write anymore...

Perhaps some parents want choice for elitist reasons, but for each one of those, there are a thousand more parents who want choice because they want to provide something better for their kids. And I for one trust the insticts of those parents over the "good intentions" of a self-serving bureuacracy.

I'd love to see you make this same elitist argument in Milwuakee where vouchers have been around for 15 years. I think the entire city would you throw you out for insanity. Do you know who benefits most from their voucher program? Poor, minority families. Is it elitist for them to want to choose a school that works for their kids over a school that's failing them??

Oh, and by the way, private schools across the US are more racially integrated than public schools. So it looks like the good intentions of government still can't out do the power of educational freedom.

I'm sorry, but I think your logic is flawed. I live in a very nice neighborhood. I would prefer that my children attend public school with all their friends who live in the same neighborhood so that we can enjoy a real sense of community.

At the same time, the neighborhood public school is dealing with huge class sizes and needed repairs. The Republican-run Legislature is making my "choice" more difficult because it won't fund public schools to an adequate level. As we all know, Utah continues to be the last in the nation in public school funding, and its public schools have the largest class sizes nationally. But instead of helping make the "choice" of public schools more attractive, many in the majority party insist on taking away money from this "choice" to fund another "choice." So who really is controlling my choice -- certainly not me and my family alone. There's a lot more to this issue than personal preference, and it all boils down to funding.

Question: what's an acceptable level of funding? The answer is always the same: MORE! When we education be adequately funded? NEVER! Even if we double, triple, quadruple education spending it won't be enough.

Boils down to funding? No, it boils down to reform. As long as teachers are compensated on the current salary schedule which does not incentivize performance, no amount of money will improve student achievement.

Btw, congrats on hijacking the term "choice". You say your choice isn't properly funded. If it were up to you, we wouldn't even have choice to begin with. Your comments remind me of the Aeroflot (Soviet Airlines) advertisement which read "Aeroflot: you have made the right choice" Of course back in the USSR, people didn't even have a choice.

If you want to send your child to a neighborhood school so you can enjoy a "sense of community" (whatever that means), fine. But you have to admit that some parents want something else for their children, like maybe being real good at math.

Btw, you CHOSE to live in a nice neighborhood. Many parents don't have a financial CHOICE. If they're stuck in a bad neighborhood because that's all they can afford, then I guess they'll just have to take one for the team, won't they?

Once Utah is no longer last in the nation when it comes to funding for public schools or first in the nation when it comes to overcrowded classrooms, I would consider that adequate.

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