Want more educational success? Support charter schools – Guest Opinion by Ari Kaufman

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Self-styled Progressives love to mock America as a “laughingstock” compared to the rest of the world in terms of obesity or gun violence or whatever topic they can obfuscate. 

One area where our great nation truly does lag behind the world is public education, a business solely owned and operated by the Left. And they have zero interest in remedying the failures; only the Right does.

Whereas the USA leads the world in everything from charitable giving, military might and medical innovation to technology, natural gas production and so many more laudable areas, any intellectually honest observer will note we fall far short in K-12 schooling.

In the wealthiest nation on earth, this is rather troubling. But the shortcomings in public education have nothing to do with money or results would have improved long ago. 

American taxpayers pay an absurd $20,000 per student per year from Kindergarten through 12th grade. That ridiculous amount is nearly double the global average of around $11,000. We also pay public school teachers on average more than any country. Yet the average student in Canada, China, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Norway and other nations that liberals tend to admire, consistently outperform the USA in every subject — despite spending less per pupil!

While no single policy solution can ameliorate these historic pitfalls going back nearly a century, because the issues are so vast, one area achieving grand success are charter schools and voucher programs. These initiatives, which began in 1992 in Minnesota, have long been deemed by scholars and conservative politicians as the “civil rights issue” of our time. The left talks a good game about “civil rights” when they seek votes and power, but on real matters, they balk.

I taught for five years in our country’s second largest school district — with one of the most aggressive and powerful teachers unions — and witnessed public education’s myriad issues firsthand in Los Angeles. I’ve documented them now for nearly two decades with a book and dozens of published articles in various newspapers.

Intense resistance to proven educational successes such as merit pay, tenure extension and any needed reform was intense; charter schools were specifically anathema. While Republicans have long supported charter schools and voucher programs, most Democrats are beholden to corrupt teachers unions and therefore do not. 

When asked about charter schools during their Sept. 12 presidential debate, leading Democrats, including Cory Booker who’s seen their success in his beloved Newark, conveniently tiptoed around the issue. He and the others on stage preferred to change the subject, bash the education secretary or, in the case of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, angrily shout “pay teachers more” clichés. 

Charter and magnet schools are often based in local townships within a city’s boundaries, and thus, not bound by the bureaucracy and size of sclerotic large districts. Uniforms are frequently donned by diverse populations, discipline is enhanced, while students’ and teachers’ attitudes often change with liberation from outdated guidelines. These schools break the monopoly of “one-size-fits-all” education. Usually located just a few miles from urban decay, it’s a different world. 

Charter schools post higher results across the board than the traditional monopoly we’ve had from time immemorial. Further expansion of school choice options has the potential to liberate children, particularly poorer ones, from a dysfunctional education. The effort is worth it. Most of the country is on board; Democrat powers-that-be, teachers and unions protecting them are not.  They remain adept at perpetuating underachievement.

Evidence also shows more money for schools does not lead to success and often simply ways to waste the funds. In reform circles, there is the infamous Kansas City study, where the large district dramatically increased funding by billions in the 1980s and 1990s. This included increasing teacher salaries, adding glistening swimming pools, fancy computer labs and more. Was there an improvement in test scores and other quantitative results? Of course not. Nor was there more racial integration. Oops. This should be a telling lesson.

In addition to the absurd  “more money for schools” line peddled by vacuous politicians like Harris, a common ignorant retort toward education reformers is that those pushing for change are “anti school” or worse. With urban schools crippling our country’s most vulnerable (minority) children, advocating for experimentation with vouchers is actually “pro child.” It is progress. It is also consistent with America’s free market aspirations.

There were fewer than 2,500 charter schools when George W. Bush came into office. Eight years later, the number had doubled to nearly 5,000, and continues to grow a decade later. 

The former president’s words stand true today:

“These diverse, creative schools are proof that parents from all walks of life are willing to challenge the status quo if it means a better education for their children,” Bush said. “More competition and more choices for parents and students will raise the bar for everyone.”

Between the radical political agendas, insouciance toward students and lack of innovation, I ultimately lost the energy to keep teaching. Attempts to buck the trend and assist students were fought like the Battle of Antietam. I got along well with the parents and loved instructing the kids. But the resistance to change and browbeating of anyone seeking change demoralized me. 

Since leaving the profession and embarking on other careers, I published an entire book and dozens of articles on educational reform in various newspapers. I try so hard. Sadly, I continue to marvel at the preservation of a failed status quo. It clearly does not have to be this way.

“What is Ilhan Omar’s endgame”? – Guest piece by Ari Kaufman

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Coincidentally, my flight landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport just as Thursday’s now-infamous and sycophantic Ilhan Omar rally concluded.

The predominantly white and elderly crowd (retired teachers and assorted radicals) of activists I saw held signs with straw man  clichés (“Racism is not patriotic”), accompanied by the usual anti-Trump and anti-GOP rhetoric. There were maybe three dozen people in attendance, not “about 100 supporters mobbing Ms. Omar for a hero’s welcome” as a New York Times story noted. Some folks have jobs, you know. Perhaps even more media was present than attendees.

What exactly were they celebrating, though?

Rep. Omar’s views of the country that fought to save people like her in Somalia, allowed her family to settle here in freedom and, just a few years after graduating from a mediocre state college, jumpstart her national political career, remain ignorant and repugnant. Month after month of divisive and disingenuous venom from the first-term congresswoman deserves all the criticism and opprobrium we can muster.

This week, Omar transitions from making anti-Semitic comments to crafting anti-Semitic policy, when she introduces an offensive resolution supporting the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement—a rogue anti-Israel organization, supported by Hamas and other execrable global groups, whose actions embody historical examples of Jew-hatred, while inexplicably equating the Jewish State to Nazi Germany in the process.

The invidious resolution is symbolic anti-semitic propaganda that won’t garner public support in a wise nation that, unlike much of the world, overwhelmingly believes the Jewish people have right to exist in their homeland.

Aside from seeking attention and more fundraising opportunities (“follow the Benjamins,” indeed), Omar likely wants to get her fellow Democrats, including 2020 Presidential hopefuls, on the record. This should infuriate those candidates, including fellow Minnesota Democrat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, currently among the crop of aspirants. Klobuchar happens to be openly pro-Israel, unlike many candidates including purported frontrunners Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Democrats, who already struggled mightily to condemn Omar’s numerous past abhorrent comments on Israel, Judaism, AIPAC and its “Benjamins” dominating U.S. policy on Israel, hope to delay the legislation amid fears of continued intra-party clashes. Not a bad idea, but sad too. Though Omar is safe in her provincial urban district, it should undoubtedly only alienate more Jews and Minnesotans from what her ilk believes is a “revolution.”

Tellingly, less than a year ago and before her election to Minnesota’s far left 5th Congressional district — ironically the most Jewish district in the state and nearly all the Midwest —  Omar told a crowd of Democrats at Beth El Synagogue that she opposes BDS, a group so bigoted that nearly 30 states have passed legislation banning organizations that support BDS from receiving state funds. The House Foreign Affairs Committee also passed a July 17 resolution accusing BDS of promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation.” What changed, Ilhan, or did you lie to placate gullible liberal Jews?

Lee Zeldin, a Jewish Iraq War veteran and congressman of Omar’s age, who has destroyed her since January on social media, tweeted, “Israel is our best ally in the Mid East; a beacon of hope, freedom and liberty, surrounded by existential threats. Shame on Rep Omar for bringing her hateful twist on that reality to House Foreign today, propping up the BDS movement and blaming Israel for all of its challenges.”

So Omar is hurting her party by augmenting the internecine war between liberals and the hard Left, dividing her district, ruining her brand, and giving a president she loathes more foil to expose her. What is her overarching goal?

Perhaps, as debated on Fox News, talk radio and occasionally the legacy media, the power within today’s Democratic Party is not with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer and party elders, but with inane “activists” like Omar and her vacuous media allies.

If President Trump wanted to call out the anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism of Omar’s so-called “squad,” there are more effective ways than to say, “go back where you came from”; but absent any check on their instincts, radicals like Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and other brainwashed young leftists will continue their commitment to, as one writer recently put it, “a special brand of ethnic and sectarian antagonism.”

And that hatred has troubling aspects for Democrats, Republicans, and the United States.