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Point: Parents Must End the Teachers Unions’ Stranglehold on Education

For an alternate point of view, see: “Counterpoint: Vouchers are Not the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time”

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court took a historic step toward ending injustice with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Politicians once stood in the schoolhouse door as a barrier to keep minorities out.

The new civil rights challenge is to break through the barrier that’s trapping minority children in failing government schools today.

Teachers unions.

Teachers unions exploited the pandemic, holding the education of America’s children hostage to extract ransom payments from taxpayers. Yet, the remote learning they pushed revealed that many schools focused more on indoctrination than education. Unions overplayed their hand and awakened a sleeping giant: parents.

As I explain in “The Parent Revolution: Rescuing Your Kids from the Radicals Ruining Our Schools,” conservatives have since doubled down to provide all families with the freedom to choose how to educate their children. And remarkably, in the last three years, 11 states with Republican-controlled legislatures have passed universal school choice initiatives.

School choice shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Actually, it isn’t among voters. RealClear Opinion Research polling found that a supermajority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents support school choice. Further, University of Houston polling found that 73 percent of Black Democrats support private school vouchers for low-income families in Texas.

Indeed, the problem is that the Democratic Party is a subsidiary of the teachers unions. In fact, unions engage in what is tantamount to money laundering. In 2022, 99.97 percent of campaign contributions from the American Federation of Teachers went to Democrats. Make no mistake, this one-sided cycling of cash has been taking place for decades. And politicians listen to the special interest dollars over their own constituents.

The public school system — more accurately, the “government school system” — spends  $20,000 in taxpayer money per student annually. However, the average private school tuition is less than $13,000 annually. Taxpayers’ money should be redirected to families to empower them to choose the education provider that best meets their needs and aligns with their values. That’s the most economical and democratic approach to education.

The government school system discriminates by ZIP code and is rife with inequality. For example, there are dozens of government-run Baltimore schools in which no student is proficient in math. The government school system is also markedly divided along racial lines. A preponderance of evidence finds that school-choice initiatives yield integration. Lo and behold, several staunch segregationists locked arms with teachers unions to oppose school choice in the 1950s after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. 

Today, as it was then, education freedom is the great equalizer.

If the ideologues running teachers unions were honest, they would label the vast disparities in government-run schools “systemic racism.” Yet, they don’t because the apparent solution — giving families the right to choose their children’s education — would diminish their power.

Fortunately, some Democratic politicians are finally breaking with teachers unions. Legislators in Georgia and North Carolina joined the GOP on the issue of school choice last year. In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro changed his education platform to include private schools right before his gubernatorial election in 2022. In Virginia, the defeat of Terry “I-don’t-think-parents-should-be-telling-schools-what-they-should-teach” McAuliffe was undoubtedly a cautionary tale.

The Louisiana House passed universal school choice by a supermajority vote of 72 to 32, and nearly 20 percent of the Democrats in the chamber voted for the bill. “As I watch children in poverty, trapped in failing schools, who can hardly read, I’d be damned if I will continue to defend the status quo,” said Rep. Jason Hughes from the floor.

Eleven percent of Florida’s House Democrats voted for universal school choice last year. This year, three Democrats in the Missouri House voted to expand school choice, and Democratic Sen. Justin Wayne made a consequential vote for school choice in Nebraska.

If enough Democratic officials locked arms and listened to their constituents, they could once and for all break free from the militants running teachers unions. If they don’t, sooner rather than later, they will be excoriated and punished by parents, who have emerged as one of the most potent voting blocks in modern American politics.

Ciresi, Neafcy Face Off Again in House 146 District

When they faced off two years ago in House District 146, incumbent state Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) easily bested his GOP opponent, Thomas Neafcy by about 5,000 votes.

But the politics of 2022 are very different. President Joe Biden is polling in the low 30s, gas prices are soaring, and polls show voters are ready for a change. Enough change to flip this district? That is what Neafcy is hoping.

Thomas Neafcy

Ciresi, who is seeking a third term, is quick to note he is willing to buck trends in his own party.

“I know some of my colleagues get upset with me because I’m not progressive enough at times. I am progressive, but I look at a different way to get there. I don’t believe that tomorrow everything should be renewable. I believe it all needs to be renewable, but you need to buy into that.”

One thing both candidates agree on is the economy is the most pressing issue.

Republican Neafcy, a former Limerick Township supervisor, blames Biden’s policies for a historic surge in inflation that has raised the price of gas, food and rent.

That is squeezing Pennsylvanians, especially families and retirees on fixed incomes, said Neafcy, who secured the GOP nod through a write-in campaign in the May primary.

“We’re heading into a recession. People on fixed incomes or retired are scared to death,” said Neafcy, who counts himself among those who are worried after retiring following more than 30 years working for PECO. “We’re in terrible shape under President Biden. Inflation’s out of control. Gas prices are out of control. Jobs aren’t what they should be. We’re in trouble and it’s going to hurt for a while.”

Ciresi pointed to the state’s $42.8 billion spending plan that allocated more than half a billion dollars in additional spending for K-12 education as providing some relief for taxpayers.

Nearly $250 billion is going to help the state’s 100 poorest districts, the Associated Press reported, along with  $140 million in direct property tax relief for residents through a one-time bonus rebate program proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

“We all know the economy is a major issue,” Ciresi said. “And it continues to be an issue. This budget that just came out helped a lot of people.”

After giving up his supervisor seat last year following decades in public service, Neafcy said was drawn into the race after the Montgomery County GOP failed to put up a candidate in the primary. He said he felt a responsibility to step up after serving virtually every level of local government in Limerick Township.

“I have one philosophy, and I’ve always kept it. I will give you an honest answer,” Neafcy said. “You may not like it, but I’ll tell you the truth. You can take it to the bank. I don’t play that game. I believe in honesty and integrity.”

Ciresi, a former Spring-Ford School Board member, comes from a plain-speaking Italian family whose influence is obvious in how he carries himself.

He littered his interview with DVJournal with colorful language and jokingly told a childhood story of how his mother brusquely laid into an irritated motorist who honked at them while they were broken down at a light.

He hopes his straight-talking ways and commitment to doing the “right d**n thing” no matter what appeals to voters who are disillusioned with Democrats because of Biden’s unpopularity.

Neafcy attacked his opponent’s record on education, claiming he is a “special-interest” candidate aligned with his biggest donors, including the teachers unions.

Neafcy supports school choice and was critical of legislation that Ciresi sponsored aimed at changing charter school laws and the way schools are funded.

“He’s trying to defund charter schools,” Neafcy said. “He’s not working for the kids. He’s working for the teachers’ unions.”

Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee, has been critical of the state’s funding formula, particularly an antiquated “hold harmless” policy, around since 1992 to ensure school districts aren’t funded less than they were in previous years. He believes it created steep imbalances among schools with shrinking or increasing student enrollment.

“It was a good idea at one point. It doesn’t work,” Ciresi said. Growing school districts raised property taxes to offset the state’s underfunding. This year’s budget includes a $225 million increase for Level Up aimed at addressing the iniquities, he said.


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