Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Washington Post and Me

Today, Jay Mathews's Washington Post Class Struggle column is about me and my fight for school choice. Here's a sample:

Lisa Snell admits she was not in the most receptive mood when she visited the central registration office of her school district last year to talk about her son Jacob. If I were a school administrator and saw Snell heading for my office, I would be tempted to shut the door and tell my secretary I was going to be in conference for the next week or so.

Snell is a dark-haired, 34-year-old woman with a pleasant demeanor, on the surface no different from any soccer mom you might meet in the Riverside County, Calif., community of Lake Mathews (named after a prominent attorney to whom I am not related). She has two degrees in communication from California State University system, an accountant husband and two small children.

But she is also one of the most aggressive consumers of educational statistics in the country, and a leading national critic of the government's monopoly over public schooling. Her job is director of education and child-welfare programs for the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, an organization dedicated to notions of liberty and limited government.

I tell the story of Snell's short, aborted encounter with the Corona-Norco Unified School District because I think it illuminates, in ways the usual political debates do not, what irks many Americans about the way we decide where to send our children to school. It also exposes the sloppy way reporters like me have been describing the fight over private management of public schools, as well as potential flaws in the "No Child Left Behind" law just adopted, with great fanfare, by the president and both parties in Congress. Snell, for instance, thinks sustained annual improvement is a noble goal when viewed from the airy heights of Capitol Hill, but does not work so well for schools at the bottom making only minimal gains.

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