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Jack Coons

school choice

Commentary: Of rights and powers: state and parent

Law uses the term “right(s)” in various ways; in its most common version, the concept includes a sub-species called “power(s),” a word that I will deploy here: We say that a scoutmaster has the right and power to expel (or not) the miscreant young Henry from Troop 40; my drill sergeant had the power to make me do push-ups. In this brief essay I will suggest that, in dealing with children and families, it could be useful to understand the parents’ authority in this way as a subcategory of right, one quite distinct from what I will call a...
teachers unions

Teachers unions: Must they be preserved?

There is nothing to prevent teachers unions starting their own charter schools. Indeed, here and there, a few have done so. Yet most union leaders constantly blast this option as “private” and “wasteful” and “un-American” and “segregationist” and . . . (fill in the blank). At least one of these intended insults seems valid, but an unwitting compliment; most charters are essentially a private undertaking. The degree of their insularity from the “public” system varies depending on state law and the terms of their individual charters, but, after all, any separation of a school from the system in order to...
school choice

Coons: More than money

Public school parents in Rhode Island have asked a federal court to declare that the state’s very spotty provision of instruction in civics and related humanities violates constitutional rights of its high school students. Their complaint has it that, especially in poor neighborhoods, children are taught shockingly little about our state and federal governments and the expected role of the citizen in jury service, voting, taxation and so forth. It seems that fewer than half our states even require the teaching of civics, and the Rhode Island suit would put that failure to the test of “equal protection” and...
demographics

Coons: A charter with God?

In Chicago, the teachers from a system of fifteen charter schools that serve 7,000 mostly Hispanic students have gone on strike. These schools are among the few charters in the country that are unionized. Well, good luck to them all, but it is only fair to remind these folks of the essentially private and voluntary nature of these schools, and the risk that this entails. In the private sector, parents freely choose. A strike by teachers, just as a strike by widget makers, puts their own employment at risk. Their company's product has competitors all hoping to see another one...
school choice

On school choice and the teaching of equality

Are we clear what we mean (or even could mean) when we fight for “human equality?” In what would a truly “equal” world consist? As a lawyer, I have more than once invoked the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment: “No state shall … deny to any person … the equal protection of the law.” But let us be clear: These words do not proclaim humanity’s universal equality. They assert only the right of every person under our national law to receive the same treatment that is accorded every other person in his specific situation. “All six-year-olds” are entitled to...
religion

Separated and secular

Three score years ago the U.S. Supreme Court forbade the teaching and symbols of religion in public schools. God is neither to be discussed, pictured nor even sung to at Christmas; maybe at graduations and football games students may express their thanks to God – up to a point. It is proper, of course, for the teachers to relate the truths of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. But, it is improper to invite the student mind to wonder about just how all that material reality came to be in the first place. Could matter create itself; could all...
education choice

Consider downside of denying choice

Assemblyman Snodgrass would appreciate your thoughtful response to questions about school choice she will face this year in the legislature. You may respond at length if you choose. Who is better able to decide upon the school that the individual child will attend? a. Whoever draws the boundary lines of the attendance zones that determine the specific public schools to which individual children are assigned according to family residence? b. That child’s parent? If you answered “a,” is this because, without having met the child, the government is a better decider of this issue? a. Yes. b. No. If “yes” to Question No. 2, should well-off...

“Public education” is anything but public

In much of American society, children attend a school that has been chosen by their parents. Mom and Dad have picked out a home in the attendance area of a certain school that is owned and run by the government. At the very least, when they moved they knew its reputation. Whether or not the school was a major consideration, they accepted it as a substantial part of the culture that would count greatly in shaping their child’s worldview. That school of theirs will be called “public.” My Webster’s defines this word in various ways, but most prominent among these...