The propaganda campaign on behalf of school vouchers in the District of Columbia is deplorable but relentless.
Yesterday, 70 or so parents, children and paid lobbyists rallied on behalf of the federally funded "D. C. Opportunity Scholarship" program in front of the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.
The immediate goal of the protest was funding for 216 students who were offered tuition vouchers in the spring, but later had them rescinded when Congress voted to discontinue the private school subsidy. The larger goal of the rally, however, is much more sweeping: expanded federal funding for religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia -- and ultimately throughout America.
Although organizers push forward a handful of caring parents and adorable children wearing "Put Kids First" T-shirts, the real driving force behind this event is the Alliance for School Choice (ASC), not families.
ASC is a national lobbying outfit that wants private school subsidies across the board. The group is implacably hostile to America's public school system, and its backers will do anything they can to divert public funds to private education.
According to IRS documents, ASC operated with $10.5 million in revenues in 2007. That's not chump change, so it's no surprise that its activities are so well-orchestrated by top public relations and lobbying teams in Washington.
Ironically, sometimes the facts peek through in the best of operations.
The Washington Post reported, "The protest drew parents and students already in the voucher program, but seemingly few, if any, of the 216 whose immediate future is at stake."
If these parents are so concerned, where were they? Organizers even told attendees they would provide $5 "to reimburse you for transportation expenses"! Could it be that they're just pawns in a larger game?
The rally also collided with one public school's activist who let his voice be heard loud and clear.
According to The Washington Times, "[C]ounterprotester Robert Vinson Brannum, a community activist, strapped two loudspeakers to his car and shouted into a microphone at the demonstrators. The shouting match continued for nearly 45 minutes, with the volume of Mr. Brannum's speakers drowning out the chants from the other side."
Brannum, a former teacher, said, "The [voucher] program itself is not designed to help D.C. public schools, which is what the argument is for them. It's to support school choice.
"The voucher program does not do that," he continued. "It's simply a way to get public dollars for a limited number of students. That's discriminatory. It seems to me if the private schools are receiving public funding, then they need to open their doors and let everyone in."
Amen, Mr. Brannum!
Now if only Mr. Brannum had been allowed to go on CNN and make his case. Instead, CNN "Newsroom" yesterday afternoon featured a pro-voucher mom and her daughter, who demanded that they get a voucher for private school.
CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips even posed in front of a large screen shot of the pro-voucher Web site and told viewers they can go there to contact President Barack Obama about the issue.
It was the most one-sided "news" segment I think I've ever seen on CNN. Is there no line between objective news and editorializing any more?
Anyway, this all shows that the battle over school vouchers in the U.S. Congress is far from over. Sen. Joe Lieberman and his allies are pushing relentlessly to continue federal funding for religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia. And President Obama and his administration are going to be under intense pressure to support an expanded voucher scheme.
If you haven't spoken with your senators and House member about this, please do so. The other side is definitely rounding up the troops on behalf of taxpayer subsidies for religious schools.