By Denise Tessier
The Albuquerque Journal’s Op-Ed page at times is a virtual mine field for unsuspecting readers. Case in point is the recent letter, “Kids Should Have School Choice,” which among its five brief sentences contained this line:
Public charter schools help break up the government school monopoly on tuition-free schools.
Great Scott! Readers, it seems, are absorbing the anti-public schools rhetoric so thoroughly, their own letters carry scary think tank jargon about “government” school monopolies.
But read to the end of this letter, which ran below entries from Fort Sumner and Albuquerque on Aug. 27, and one finds it came from “Joy Pullmann, Education research fellow, Heartland Institute, Chicago.”
No link is available to the letter online, but ABQJournal online has archived another letter the Journal ran from Pullman back on Jan. 11, the point of which was also to give New Mexico advice about education.
Does the Journal have so few letters coming in that it has to run canned think tank briefs out of Chicago, talking points that are disseminated to papers all over the United States? Having once handled incoming letters at the Journal, I’d say the scarcity-of-letters scenario is highly unlikely.
Yet, here the editors chose to publish a letter from the discredited Heartland Institute.
Heartland is the group that spent thousands of dollars on billboards denouncing climate change as a farce, preferring an unscientific, “free-market” approach to policy making. It also has a multi-million-dollar education project funding school curriculum materials that “contradict the established science on climate change.” And yet the Journal gives Heartland a platform as it tries to influence New Mexico’s education choices.
Pullman’s letter says:
Giving Albuquerque Public Schools a say over whether it should have charter school competition is like letting McDonald’s choose whether there should be more Burger Kings. . .
No one says, “Why do we need so many grocery stores or hospitals? Everyone in town should go to the same food and medical providers.” People accept that idea on its face as absurd.
They should also accept the idea that kids should be assigned schools by ZIP code as absurd.
New Mexico has displayed a healthy skepticism of out-of-state influence when it comes to education – at least outside of the governor’s office. Witness the fact that the State Legislature has yet to confirm the governor’s pick for Education Secretary. In her second year on the job, Florida’s Hanna Skandera is still the “secretary designate.”
The Journal should show a little more skepticism when letters from the Heartland Institute arrive. In running this one, it allowed itself to be used.