Thursday, August 11, 2005

Stuck in the Middle with You

Whose bright idea was it to make incumbent Delegate Mitch van Yahres (D-57), who raises money for Democratic candidates, the "moderator" of a candidates' forum at the Senior Center in Charlottesville on Wednesday, August 10?

The forum featured eight candidates, from unopposed and contested races, incumbents and challengers, and independents as well as those from both major political parties.

Traditionally, moderators at candidate forums are neutral players rather than outspokenly partisan. So it should come as no surprise that at least one independent participant, Delegate Watkins Abbitt (I-59), took umbrage at seeing van Yahres in the moderator's chair. Speaking a bit hyperbolically, Abbitt, who is running unopposed for re-election to the seat he inherited from his father, called into question van Yahres' capacity to be a neutral moderator, comparing him to "Osama bin Laden [negotiating] a peace between the U.S. and Iraq." Others were equally disturbed but too polite to mention it in public, in deference to their hosts.

Van Yahres' role as moderator was not limited to introducing the candidates and recognizing them when they wished to speak. He also chose the questions to be asked, which had been submitted in writing on index cards by audience members.

One member of that audience told me (I was unable to be present) that every question was about "how much can you give me or my pet cause." It seemed to that observer that everyone there came with palms outstretched to see how much money could be panhandled from the legislators and legislator-wannabes.

According to Bob Gibson in the Daily Progress, the biggest new entitlement the audience wanted to hear about was "free" pre-kindergarten classes to be provided at taxpayers' expense. One of the candidates, Gibson reported,

David Cox of Lexington, a retired Episcopal priest challenging Del. Ben L. Cline, R-Amherst, in the 24th District, said preschool classes should not be limited to at-risk students and should be made "as widely available as possible."
Republican Tom McCrystal, a candidate for the open seat in the 57th District (vacated by van Yahres' retirement after a quarter-century of picking our pockets), suggested seeking money for such programs through public-private partnerships. Looking at the other end of the educational lifespan, McCrystal added:
When people generally think about education, they only think of public schools, or maybe our universities, too. But when you think about it, that only covers the first twenty years or so of someone’s life, so in reality, it’s only a part of the story. I’ve always believed that education is about life long learning. And a critical component is Virginia’s Community College System.

You probably already know how important community colleges are, because over 10 percent of its students are age 45 and older.

We need to create a Virginia Community College Trust Fund, to provide a stable, reliable, long-term revenue stream for our Community Colleges. This Trust Fund can provide per-student support to our colleges, create scholarships for students who need a leg up, and endow faculty positions to insure that those who teach are the best of the best.
As long as these expansions of educational programs come from voluntary contributions , I can go along with them. When we look at how dismal the performance of government-run education has been for the past three decades, however, I think it would be throwing good money after bad to create more avenues for mischief within the public sector.

Pre-K programs for our children are particularly troublesome, because the more time children spend in the hands of government educators, the dumber and more docile they become. As that famous fascist, Miss Jean Brodie, boasted: "Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life."

No comments: