Americans for Prosperity teamed up with National School Choice Week to bring a full week of events discussing the American education system. Events were held in 37 cities around the country from Los Angeles to Augusta Maine to our own Fort Lauderdale area in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I had the pleasure of being invited by State Chairman of AFP-Florida, Slade O’Brien, to attend the event Friday night January 27th. All events were streamed across America.
The most crucial issue we face today is that America’s 15 year-olds rank 35th out of 57 industrialized countries in math and literacy. This is a deplorable score for a country that spends more per pupil than any other nation.
Joyce Kaufman, a local radio personality in Fort Lauderdale, gave the opening address regarding the problems in public education. With a PhD in Education she was well versed in the challenges facing the Florida school systems.
The panelists for the event were an unlikely team of Dick Morris and Juan Williams, Fox News Analysts, who are both advocates for School Choice. They were joined on stage with Abby MacIver, the Florida-AFP Policy and External Affairs Director.
Morris and Williams each gave 10-15 minute talks about the state of affairs of our public school systems. Both highlighted, with many examples, the problems associated with staid policies and the union strangle-holds on schools when it comes to removing teachers who are, in many cases, incompetent or deviants. They both told stories about union influence in Washington DC and New York City which have the most expensive and ineffective school systems in the country.
They noted that salary does not directly correlate to student performance. Both agreed that the national average for teachers should be near $80,000 far above the national average of $56,000, while New York, New Jersey and Washington DC are reputed to exceed $100,000.
In a humorous moment, Dick Morris related that President Clinton’s Arkansas ranked 49th nationally when Clinton was Governor. The slogan was, “Thank God for Mississippi.”
Williams advocated that School Choice breeds competition and competition is good in business and good in schools. Morris added, when asked earlier in the week, “What will happen to all the empty schools if everyone chooses a different school?” Morris’ retort was, “If they are empty why don’t we close them?” Both agreed that some of the biggest problems are in states held by Democrats due to the union influence. Morris and Abby MacIver commented on the positive changes taking place under Governor Scott in Florida and mentioned the progress taking place in Wisconsin under Governor Scott Walker, who is being challenged under a Recall Petition for reducing the cost of public education at the expense of union influence.
The overall consensus is that Charter Schools and School Choice is the first step to improving the quality of education in our school systems. All liked a Voucher System and disagreed with Tax Credits.
I had the pleasure of meeting Juan Williams, who stated that School Choice has been a Right Wing agenda item and has finally come around to being partly embraced by members of the Left, with the exception of the union supporters. I told Juan the following, “Juan I gained a new found respect for you tonight” and he smiled, then I added, “We are going to take you off Mute when you are on Fox from now on.” and he laughed out loud.
In a brief discussion with Dick Morris after the event, I asked, “How many states are in play for the Republicans?” He said confidently, “I think we can win 35-40 States.” I told him I was an advocate for his Electronic Precinct System. Morris lives and votes in Delray Beach, Florida
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By Philip L. Frommholz, a writer from Sarasota, Florida