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’20/20′ Re-Airing Controversial Program Critical of Public Schools

Homeschool leaders commended ABC’s decision to re-air “Stupid in America,” a “20/20” special from January that teacher unions called yellow journalism, Friday night.

The original report by ABC News correspondent John Stossel presented <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America’s public school system as a government-run monopoly that lags behind education in much of the world. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Teacher unions organized demonstrations protesting the program as an insult to hard-working teachers. Stossel wrote Wednesday he will show a protest outside his office when ABC updates the program this week.
 
Stossel said teachers didn’t like his “government monopoly” comment but refused to back down.
 
“Every economics textbook says monopolies are bad because they charge high prices for shoddy goods. But it’s government that gives us monopolies. So why do we entrust something as important as our children’s education to a government monopoly?”
 
Stossel said the government’s schools fail so many kids that more than a million parents make sacrifices to homeschool. While many parents homeschool for religious reasons, he said, some are just fed up with public schools.
 
“Homeschooled students blow past their public-school counterparts in terms of achievement,” Stossel said, quoting Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute.
 
Homeschool leaders responded with glee, networking rapidly to urge supporters to watch Friday’s program.
 
“This is one of the truly great critiques of government involvement in school, because it uses the visual media so effectively,” said Alan Schaeffer of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State.
 
A leader in the Southern Baptist Convention faction calling for an “exit strategy” from public schools strongly recommended the report.
 
“The Southern Baptist homeschooling community needs to be aware of the issues and horrible statistics,” said Elizabeth Watkins, president of the Southern Baptist Church and Home Education Association. “We also need to be on our knees, praying for every child to be rescued from this tragic situation.”
 
Watkins said many Christian parents have heard public schools “are not the bad.” But she said if California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent signing of a law that prohibits schools that receive state funds, including religious ones, from discriminating on basis of sexual orientation is any indication “is a hint of things to come, we need to get that exit strategy in place now.”
 
The National Education Association did not respond to a request for comment before this story was finished. But NEA President Reg Weaver wrote a letter to ABC News President David Westin when it aired originally, claiming Stossel “took outrageous bits and pieces of negative news from around the country, and pasted them together in what was purported to be an analysis of public education.” Weaver said educators should receive equal opportunity to rebut Stossel.
 
“I’m sorry that union teachers are mad at me,” Stossel wrote in March. “But when it comes to the union-dominated monopoly, the facts are inescapable. Many kids are miserable in bad schools. If they are not rich enough to move, or to pay for private school, they are trapped.
 
“It doesn’t have to be that way. We know what works: choice. That’s what’s brought Americans better computers, phones, movies, music, supermarkets–most everything we have. Schoolchildren deserve the joyous benefits of market competition too.”
 
While commending Stossel’s handling of the story, Schaeffer said the Alliance for Separation of School and State disagrees with his solution that leaves the government in charge of the flow of money. “Even his carefully selected example of Belgium is buckling to government control over private schools, because the government still handles the money,” Schaeffer said.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Previous related stories:
Teachers’ Union Fights Back at ’20/20′ Report
TV Report Critical of Public Schools Termed ‘Major Development’ for ‘Exodus’ Movement
 
See our special section on Christians and Public Education.