To Slay a Hydra in Bridgeport
By Robert Romano
“I perpetuate the creation of an underclass every day I open my classes up…”—Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.
The monopoly on education held by public schools in Connecticut may be starting to crack. One brave mayor has decided to buck the hydra-like education establishment and advocate for school choice, risking his political skin on behalf of needy urban students.
And if he succeeds, it may portend the beginning of the end of the union's stranglehold in the education community.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch believes that the Connecticut Supreme Court will rule that Connecticut's schools are separate and unequal, that they discriminate against blacks and Puerto Ricans—and that the solution for this is school choice.
The Mayor shocked the education and political establishment of the state with his statements in favor of what is usually too often portrayed as a conservative issue. “I think we need public school choice in the cities,” Finch said. “I wasn't planning on this being my coming-out party, but I believe, certainly, in public school choice for all the troubled cities. We have to strengthen and increase our charters. We have to work with the private schools.”
Flying in the face of NEA-union dogma, the Mayor pointed out that the urban students could attend private schools for a “fraction” of the cost of sending them to public schools. He noted that the public schools are overcrowded, that the private schools are not, and that both would benefit from an arrangement if students had a choice to attend private or parochial schools.
Needless to say, Finch won't have an easy row to hoe.
In Connecticut, have dominated the state legislature for decades. To them, deeply in thrall to the NEA, school choice is an anathema, routinely condemned as a threat to the public education establishment. And, in fact, it is. But that is because public education, dominated by union dictates, invariably skyrockets the cost of education, while protecting inferior teachers, and lowering academic standards.
Mr. Finch has evidently caught on to the deterioration of the system. But he has an uphill battle. And he will need aid.
The public teachers unions, with a boot on the throats of state legislatures across the country, have guaranteed tenure and other benefits that have produced a culture of “clock-watchers” wholly unaccountable for failing students.
Moreover, they are a potent political force in state and local elections, and Mr. Finch will undoubtedly find himself in the crosshairs of the Connecticut education establishment. He may also find himself subject to a political challenge when he next comes up for election.
And what of the students and parents, who presently cannot afford private schools? At present, law does not permit them to dedicate the money they pay in taxes to private or parochial schools, whether through vouchers or tax credits. They therefore have no choice but to continue sending their kids to the failing public schools.
Mr. Finch is adamant about helping the students. And he believes the out-of-control costs of public education are to blame. “We're going to have to figure out, all together, how to work to fund this problem… I perpetuate the creation of an underclass every day I open my classes up because I can't catch up. I can't get my kids to catch up.”
It is this that the Bridgeport Mayor views as the injustice. As well he should. But to help the children he must first slay the multi-headed hydra that is the NEA-union establishment.
Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of ALG News Bureau.