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  • Black and Hispanic parents in Denver have filed a class-action lawsuit demanding that the government allow them to choose how to spend a portion of the education dollars collected from taxpayers.

  • In October, a tax credit for school choice won the approval of 71 percent of all Colorado voters surveyed.

  • Two new national polls show that blacks favor education vouchers more than whites.

The popularity of “school choice,” especially among minority and poor parents, illustrates the depth of concern over the failure of urban public schools to provide even a basic education. Though the popularity of ideas should never be construed as the ultimate test of their soundness, in this case, politicians would be advised to take note of the prevailing winds.

Still, statewide initiatives in California and Colorado have seen similar proposals to offer subsidies for private education go down to defeat. Why? Largely because the conservative voters who would seem most likely to support such referenda have not.

Most conservative voters, you see, live within school districts where public schools are, if not succeeding, at least not failing as badly as those in major cities. They don’t see the “crisis” that poor and minority parents see. But they are missing the point. They are being shortsighted. In effect, they are allowing themselves to be hoodwinked by the government-union education establishment that is — wittingly or unwittingly — aiding and abetting segregation and perpetuating inequality of opportunity.

Now, personally, I would rather see the government — especially the federal government — get completely out of the education business. In fact, many states should curtail their roles in schooling as well. But that’s not about to happen anytime soon. So, it’s time to think incrementally as do the social engineers who have wrought upon us this education crisis.

We didn’t get to this point overnight, and, I’m afraid, we’re not going to find our way out of this darkness overnight. But school vouchers are a step in the right direction.

Decentralized decision-making is always better than the kind of command-and-control network directed by the likes of the National Education Association and its lackeys in government. They know that school vouchers could provide their undoing. And, for that reason alone they should be supported.

“Instead of abandoning our schools, we should continue to support proven reform efforts,” says President Clinton, commander-in-chief of the education blob that is destroying a whole generation of young minds. “I will veto any legislation that damages our commitment to public education.”

But President Clinton didn’t mind abandoning the public schools when it came time to make a choice for his daughter Chelsea, did he? He wouldn’t have dreamed of placing her in a Washington, D.C., public school.

Now, I don’t come to this decision easily. Many free-thinking people see a hidden danger behind the voucher idea. Will we be creating yet another “entitlement” program? Not as long as the voucher represents only a portion of the money that would otherwise be spent in the public schools. But, more importantly, will government, they ask, make demands on private and religious schools that accept vouchers as they do universities which accept public money? You bet it will try. Could vouchers backfire — resulting in government control of private schools? It’s certainly a concern grounded in precedent.

Nevertheless, carefully crafted legislation that forbids the imposition of new government requirements on private schools could prevent such a disaster. It’s a gamble, but it’s worth the risk. Because our very survival as a free society depends upon an educated and informed electorate — something impossible when the government has a virtual monopoly on education.

Revolutions are never without risk. And revolution is what is called for in the battle for control of the schools in this country — not just for the poor and minority children, but for all of us.

You may not think your local public schools are that bad. You may even think they are doing a pretty good job. But, look at the direction they are headed. It won’t be long before even the best suburban school districts are little more than politically correct day-care centers. I’ve seen it happen in my own community.

School vouchers do not represent a panacea for our schools. But they do have the potential to set off that revolution we need — a revolution that can break the monopoly grip of the government-union education establishment.

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