Praying Mantises In Our Congress?

By Bonnie Chernin Rogoff
Rightgrrl Contributor
Founder, Jews For Life

July 10, 2001

I just wrote a book about Democrats, called "How To Deceive Anyone Without Even Trying." The entire book is only two sentences. Here it goes:

The best time to trick a person is to do it when they least expect it. Better yet, do it when they have their mind on something else more pressing.

In the insect world, such deception can be observed in the mating rituals of praying mantises. When the ardent male is preoccupied with satisfying his amorous instincts, the female awaits her opportunity. Reproduction complete, she lops his head off. Had the lovelorn male mantis been more attentive, he may still be alive.

While this debugging method is cruel to the male, it is not unique to insects. Democrats are cruel to their constituents. Like the female mantis, they prey on the weak and inattentive, spending money on age-worn programs that don't work, and killing taxpayers when they least expect it.

This past June, I think the most pressing issue on parents' minds was energy. Will they have enough electricity to run the summer air conditioners? Will there be rolling blackouts in the east? Very few people are focusing on school vouchers. The tax cut has already happened. We're just sitting and waiting for the dough, hoping it will roll in faster than the potential blackouts.

Maybe that's why it was so easy to pass a hollow education reform package that offers nothing of substance to parents and their children, but more failure. Caught off guard, parents see the glossy film on the package but not the content underneath. If they did, I believe they'd voice angry objections to their representatives for all the bills are lacking.

This education "reform" has been promoted as a major achievement for President Bush. Perhaps it is; it shows he has the ability to close deals very early in his administration, and that he is able to work out compromises with a divided Senate. We already know (since the Jeffords defection) that President Bush has trouble with members of his own party. Still, the Bush and Kennedy families are hosting a mutual admiration society. President Bush and Senator Kennedy are, if not party pals, definitely capable of compromise and bridging gaps in ideology. For all the talk of President Bush's lack of worldliness and tiny intellect, he is turning out to be quite an effective politician.

However, there are two major problems with this reform package. One, it costs way too much money. Two, vouchers have been eliminated. No surprise there, but it is a major setback for middle-income and poor parents who want to send their children to private religious schools, but can't afford tuition. (Nearly every poll shows vouchers are supported by the people who would receive them.)

Liberal Democrats attain power kowtowing to the NEA and teachers' unions but care not a whit about their constituents. When political power overrides personal morality, it may become necessary to prey on poor parents and deny them real freedom of educational choice for their children. The best time to deceive people is when are preoccupied with something else.

The Senate approved $33 billion dollars in spending, and the House version is $24 billion - incredibly irresponsible sums for taxpayers to dole out. Also, there will be an additional $1 billion dollars per year spent to improve reading. While the final numbers will be worked out in conference, it is inconceivable that we're even discussing doubling our current expenditures on education for next year, before demonstrated results are even measured!

Both versions of the bill, House and Senate, require mandatory state testing in reading and math and the development of report cards to verify each school is demonstrating improvement and score results comparable to other public schools. However - and this is key - failing schools will continue to receive additional federal aid until after three years, at which time a student may use Title I funds to attend another public school. Well, three years is forever to a gifted, inquisitive child longing for quality instruction. To delay a school transfer hampers a child's potential at a time when he or she is most receptive to learning. To continue providing financial incentives to abysmal schools that punish smart kids with mediocre teachers in an inferior environment is sinful.

However, the real sin is the elimination of the voucher program. Students will be allowed to transfer to other public schools, or receive private tutoring. I am not convinced throwing bucks at bad schools will magically transform them into success stories. We have already spent trillions of dollars since the 1960's on improving public education, and it continues to worsen. Who's to say a child won't transfer into a public school that is failing just as miserably as the one he just left?

Some blame the decline in student achievement to oversized classes, shortage of supplies, run down facilities, discipline problems, and lack of teacher morale. Our over-bloated education budget spends thousands per student per fiscal year. Public school teachers currently earn 25 to 119 percent more money than private school teachers, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report. The Nation's Report Card indicates, however, that fourth grade students attending public schools demonstrate lower reading scores than their peers in private schools. As well, parental satisfaction ranks highest for those whose children attend private schools. Higher salaries and excessive budgets can't buy teacher dedication.

My father, who is no longer with us, went to public school in Brooklyn in the 1920's. He spoke of days when children trudged to school in two feet of snow, and sat in corners if they were bad. In class, the slightest disobedience, even gum chewing was not tolerated. The work was tough, the benefits meager, but teachers had authority and were effective. Fuzzy math and illiteracy did not exist.

Much has changed, and not for the better. The dismal failure of our educational system lies solely with liberals who persist in denying parents freedom of choice, and exploiting children in deference to union demands. President Bush's promising alternative for change is ending up just where the Democrats wanted it. This is not compromise - this is surrender, with our taxes once more being wasted to minimal effect. To manipulate parents and children in this way is outrageous. That this legislation is being touted as sweeping reform is unfortunate, for the principle beneficiaries are the powerful union leaders. Children are right back to square one, forever trapped in a deteriorating bureaucratic mess.

The GOP has been tainted by the media as the party of big oil interests and "the rich." That is odd, for they make every effort to help lower and middle-income families. Conservative Republicans want to provide everyone opportunities once available only to the wealthy. They fought for vouchers; Democrats are responsible for killing school choice. Vouchers would not only help kids, they would benefit public schools by keeping them competitive.

Democrats have shown that they are truly the party of the rich. They don't need vouchers. Most, like Hillary and Al Gore, are wealthy enough to send their children to prestigious private schools, and they do. As it stands, we won't. And that's what really bugs me.

Copyright 2001 by Bonnie Chernin Rogoff. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.