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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, May 14, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I'll Let Brother Bob Answer

I'm a little behind, here. I got lazy, I think, while Patrick McIlheran was on vacation. But he came back last week, and threw this entry onto his blog (as a response to a Eugene Kane column). Of interest:
Kane contends that voucher schools "won't accept kids with the kind of disciplinary problems that are ruining public schools, making MPS the last resort for many students."

Not to be pushy about this, but ... wrong. I've pointed this out extensively, writing, for example, about children such as Lanisha Harris. She was expelled from MPS' Bay View High School, then taken in by a choice school, CEO Leadership Academy. [. . .]

But the plain fact is that choice schools do take in children who pose discipline problems in MPS. What they try doing, then, is fixing the discipline problems. Public schools do as much as well, though they seem hampered by rules and circumstances. Choice schools can try alternate approaches. The one thing they cannot and do not do is leave all the problems for MPS.
We've had this talk here before, and while it's true that in the application process, schools cannot legally apply any test to students--behavior, disability, race, religion, and so on--once the students are in a voucher school, they are there at the pleasure of the school.

Brother Bob Smith, who, aside from Tommy Thompson, may be the most public face of vouchers. The former Messmer High School president and current director of education for the Archdiocese spoke to a conservative audience this winter; he put it this way: Kids have to “make the right decisions, or make them somewhere else.”

That hardly sounds like someone willing to bend over backward to "fix" the discipline problems. McIlheran's anecdotes do demonstrate that not every voucher school has a quick trigger when it comes to booting behavior problems. But Brother Bob makes it clear that the voucher schools do not have to--and often choose not to--suffer so much from the kinds of problems that MPS cannot, by state law, avoid. So, not to be pushy about this, but Eugene Kane is ... basically right.

At least according to Brother Bob.

(We had a similar conversation a while back discussing McIlheran's contentions about special education and vouchers, contentions which also appear in the current suspect blog post.)

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