Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blunt's man in the media defends State Board choice

Gary Rust wears many hats and one of them is an editorial columnist.
In his column in Friday's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, Rust, who is chairman of Rust Communications, a small chain of newspapers, and is publisher of the Cape Girardeau paper, slammed critics of Governor Matt Blunt's controversial State Board of Education appointment Donayle Whitmore-Smith:

The notion that anyone who supports school choice can't provide wisdom and insight to public schools is, in its own way, offensive. If public schools were providing the quality of education desired by students and their taxpaying parents, there would be no clamor for such options as school choice and vouchers. Indeed, it could be argued that individuals who care enough about Missouri's youngsters to advocate the best educational opportunities possible are those who have the best interests of students at heart. Public-school officials are armed with arguments against school choice and vouchers -- all of which ignore the fact that public education today is failing too many students. Without government sanctions that force all public funding to go to public schools, officials of those schools know their failures could drive students and tax dollars to alternatives such as private schools or homeschooling.

Most of what Rust says is self-serving malarkey. He is fully aware that survey after survey shows that most Americans (not all, but most) are happy with their community schools. Voucher advocates continually talk about failing public schools, but for the most part this list is limited to a small percentage of those schools. The comparisons between public and private schools when it comes to educating students have shown on a consistent basis that scores are virtually identical, and that does not even take into consideration the fact that public schools are open to all students, including those with mental, physical, or emotional handicaps. Public schools are also forced to deal with whatever passing fancy legislators have during any given session. These same legislators make it clear no such restrictions would be placed on private schools. The public also would have no scrutiny over how those dollars are spent, something which it does have with public schools, through their elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

Rust does not even take into consideration the contempt Ms. Whitmore-Smith has shown for public education at every opportunity. One of her "qualifications" listed by Governor Blunt was her management of the Ptah Academy of Arts and Sciences, a New Age facility which never had more than 40 students and failed to keep its doors open. Even that underscores Ms. Whitmore-Smith's contempt for public education since she was refused a charter school permit for the facility six years ago.

I mentioned that Rust is a man who wears many hats. One of those is as a down-the-line supporter of Gov. Matt Blunt. This would not be a problem if that support were limited to his editorial column, but as Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate, it is not.
Rust is not one of those journalists who limits his politics to coverage and commentary. During the past three years, Rust has made three maximum contributions to Blunt, according to Ethics Commission records. On June 10, he contributed $1,275 to the governor's campaign. He also contributed the then-maximum $1,200 to Blunt on Nov. 2, 2004, and the maximum $1,175 to Blunt on Dec. 2, 2003.
Rust has a vested interest in the governor's policies, including his appointment of voucher advocates such as Ms. Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education.
His columns should contain disclaimers.

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