On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: Playing to his base
Et tu, Jared?
Earlier this year, I made the case that Jared Polis is the most interesting Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District — a district destined, I noted, to “elect another liberal in 2008 to replace Mark Udall.”
Why the most interesting? Because Polis is a remarkable entrepreneur who “marches to his own drummer at times — on educational choice, to cite one example.”
In recent weeks, unfortunately, Polis has muffled that drum as he falls back to the safe but stupefying strategy of pandering to his party’s political base.
Four years ago, Polis supported a modest pilot program that would have allowed a limited number of poor inner-city kids to tap public vouchers to help them attend the private school of their choice. This newspaper even published a column by Polis extolling the plan and the decision of then Attorney General Ken Salazar to support it.
“Salazar is right,” he wrote. “This experiment deserves a fair test, an honest chance. If it succeeds, it will benefit the lives of children and families.”
The experiment didn’t succeed. The state Supreme Court killed it after the legislature enacted the law. But now Polis maintains he never actually liked the idea and opposes voucher plans.
“The bill evolved into a voucher bill . . . and I did not support it in its final form,” he told The Denver Post. “It was punitive and a mandatory bill requiring districts provide subsidies for private schools.”
Except that it did not evolve into a voucher bill. It began as a voucher bill, which is why Polis called it a “modest voucher proposal” in his Rocky Op-Ed.
Polis probably remains the most interesting of the three 2nd District candidates. He even still favors more educational choice than his leading opponent, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, who earlier this year essentially accused many parents of kids in charter schools of being racist. Those schools cater, she falsely charged, to “white flight.”
In addition, as Polis assured me in an e-mail a few weeks ago, he remains “a ‘globalization optimist’ in that I think that bringing the world closer together through cultural and trade ties is a fundamentally good thing that is good for all nations.” That’s a far cry from the misguided globalization gloom that permeates the thinking of so many candidates today on both the left and right.
It’s somewhat depressing, however, that Polis would so meekly capitulate on the single issue where he might have taken a little heat during a Democratic primary. If Salazar’s position on vouchers once qualified as a profile in courage, as Polis claimed in 2003, what word should we use to characterize Polis’ own profile today?
Most predictable headline of this or any other year: “College costs outpace inflation rate” (The New York Times, Oct. 23).
Perhaps also inevitably, the article blames insufficient government aid for the price surge nationally. “We hope that state governments . . . will do their part to reinvest in higher education,” said David Ward of the American Council on Education.
Tuition at public colleges does of course tend to rise faster than normal when state support sags; Colorado provides recent evidence for this. Yet average tuition hikes often exceed inflation even when state support is strong.
If lagging government aid were the primary cause of soaring tuition, you’d think private colleges would be immune to the trend. But the College Board, which released the tuition figures this week, reports that private colleges this year hiked tuition by almost the same percentage as public colleges, 6.3 percent as opposed to 6.6 percent.
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.