Friday, April 27, 2007

Just one question, Mr. Mayor ...

Rudy Giuliani was our lunchtime speaker and was genial, well-spoken, connected with the crowd, and all the other things that are said about the mayor. He delivered several applause lines on his strongest issues, which of course are security and governmental reform. One of them, though, left a question hanging, and though I tried to get in on the brief Q&A session at the close, we got cut off at three questions only.

Giuliani spoke of his experience and frustration attempting to reform the New York City public school system, and said he was "starry eyed" to think that he could expect the same success he'd scored with emergency services, social welfare programs, and other big governmental projects. No such luck with the school systems.

He said the turning point in his thinking was when the Children's Scholarship Fund offered 2500 grants to allow parents to enroll their children in private or parochial schools. When the public school authorities refused to allow the CSF information to be distributed in the public school systems, Giuliani said he couldn't override them -- he only controlled two votes on the seven-member board.

Even with very little promotion, though, the CSF program received 168 thousand applications. What does that say?

He argues that since we are already going to spend the money, from $6000 to over $20 thousand (for special needs children), why not increase the alternatives and options available to families, beyond the public schools in their district of residence?

There was much applause because many of us here support the idea of educational reform, expanded alternatives such as public school choice, charter schools, and even tax credits or vouchers to help families direct the funding where they believe their children will be best served. However, Giuliani is not running for mayor or governor, he's a candidate for president, so my unasked (and therefore unanswered) question is:

What is the role of the federal government in an endeavor which is historically and Constitutionally a state and local issue?

See Amendment 10.

UPDATE: Joseph Coletti and I have some back-and-forth on Giuliani and schools in The Locker Room here, here, here, and here.

Reason & Revelation: Lunch with Giuliani

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