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How long will it take and what will it take to finally convince the American people that their government schools are a living disaster, wreaking irreparable damage to the minds and souls of millions of our children? How many more times will the American people allow themselves to be duped into believing that genuine school reform is under way?

It was 18 long years ago when the well-publicized 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” concluded with this dire statement: “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.” Translation: There is a basic incompatibility between self-governance and a dumbed-down citizenry.

Now here we are with another U.S. Department of Education “report card” in our hands telling us that among 4th-graders, only one in three can read at grade level, and only one in 10 black students can do so. Compared to the same test four years ago, the top 10 percent of students show some improvement, while the bottom 10 percent are slipping further behind.

The problems of education have been analyzed to death by hundreds of studies and blue-ribbon commission reports. No matter how many times we study the problem, the answer is always the same. Government schools have failed a generation of children, particularly poor and disadvantaged children, dooming many of them to lives of ignorance, dependency and poverty.

Even as the educational unions and political toadies cry out for more money and smaller classes, study after study comparing the academic performance of students in various states and various countries, in both government and private schools, yield the same result: Class size and money spent per student don’t have much impact on student performance.

Pouring billions of dollars into a broken system of education is like pouring it into a bottomless pit. Feeding this unreformed system more money only strengthens its corruption and rewards its failures. The money simply disappears, without a trace or effect.

Prior to the 1960s, government employees were not allowed to organize unions. But young President John F. Kennedy, in exchange for labor support, signed an executive order lifting the ban. He rejected the positions taken by prior leaders, including President Franklin Roosevelt and AFL-CIO President George Meany, who warned that the unionization of government employees would set up a clear conflict of interest between them and taxpayers.

This was, in retrospect, probably the worst mistake of the Kennedy administration. Today, government schools operate under the booted heel of the National Education Association, the largest and most powerful trade union in America. It is a partisan left-wing organization and a dominant force in the Democrat Party.

The NEA is not a neutral organization devoted to education. Its leaders oppose merit pay and the competency testing of teachers. They are desperately afraid of competition. They fear parents will desert government schools if given a choice. They value equality over excellence and have a condom orientation toward morality.

The NEA is protected by politicians bought and paid for, fair and square, according to the finest traditions of quid-pro-quo politics. There is absolutely no way to avoid the conclusion that the children of America have been sold out. Corrupt politicians protect the union’s educational monopoly from accountability and competition, insulate it from reform and reward its academic failures with increased funding.

These unions are deeply entrenched, and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect the lucrative white-collar racket they are running. They have succeeded in killing President Bush’s plan to provide vouchers to parents whose children are trapped in failing schools.

The incredible hypocrisy is this: According to a survey by the Heritage Foundation, 40 percent of the parents in the House of Representatives and 49 percent of those in the Senate have sent their own children to private schools. Surveys also confirm that teachers are much more likely than other parents to put their own children in private schools.

The incredible tragedy is this: While black leaders are spending time and resources, fretting and fuming about confederate symbols on Southern flags, they haven’t lifted a finger in support of black parents who are pleading for help to rescue their precious children from unsafe, drug-infested, child-cheating, life-ruining, inner-city educational plantations.

Incredibly, it is liberals who are fighting the hardest to keep the government school foot on the neck of poor parents and their children.

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