I had to laugh reading the Bill Gates op-ed about standardized tests that our charter school expert, Kay, mentioned yesterday, because it’s another instance of a politically naive, libertarian-leaning tech nerd getting buffaloed by the people he thinks are rubes. In Gates’ hyper-rational world view, you’d develop a holistic set of standardized tests and deploy them in a way that would shape the education system, guided by the latest research on teaching. Vouchers for charter schools, in his rationalist fairy tale, are a way to spur innovation by empowering parents to make choices in the educational market. It all sounds great when he’s giving a Powerpoint at TED, so I’m sure he’s genuinely shocked when all it amounts to in the real world is another cudgel for the God botherers.
State legislatures are full of Christianist Republicans who are sick of funding public schools with tax money that could be spent to pay for their kids’ K-12 Bible School. So when it comes time to develop standardized testing for schools, they make it as onerous, stupid and burdensome as possible for the public schools, so they will be “failing public schools”, and they exempt the “innovators'” at East Bumfuck Jesus Riding a Dinosaur Elementary School. They use the same voucher plan that Bill Gates would extol at an exclusive Aspen conclave, until one of the smarter deacons from their church points out that those vouchers would work at a Madrasa:
A pair of proposals rapidly moving through the Tennessee General Assembly could potentially divert tax dollars currently allocated to public schools to Islamic private schools, and two Rutherford County senators are raising concerns about the legislation. […]
State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and [Sen. Jim] Tracy each expressed their concerns Friday over Senate Bill 0196, commonly called the “School Voucher Bill” and sponsored by fellow Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), which would give parents of children attending failing public schools a voucher with which to enroll in a private school.
As Steven Benen notes, Bill Ketron is the same guy who thought that a new mop sink in the state capital was designed to be used by Muslims for foot-washing. So, yes, he is indeed a dumb bigot, but who’s the real fool here? Is it some backwoods mouth-breathing tribalist xenophobe Christian, or is it the billionaire whose money, time and effort is going to support a school movement that will spawn generation after generation of Bill Ketrons?