Fox News commentator Dick Morris told a Fort Wayne audience Tuesday that the growth of charter schools will improve public schools.
Morris addressed an audience of about 160 at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation reception at the Fort Wayne Marriott. He listed Indiana among the leaders in the school-choice movement.
The occasion was the 100th birthday of economist Milton Friedman, an advocate of free markets and of school choice. The Brooklyn native and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics died in 2006.
Morris said he met Friedman at a school-choice event. “I was amazed that this guy I saw as somebody who really was the leader in the forces for free-market economics could sound so totally engaged in education reform and in school choice. But as he explained it, it makes perfect sense,” Morris said.
Morris said Americans x would not allow the government to dictate which appliances or cars they buy. “How long would that last in this country?” he asked. “We'd have a fit.”
“But in the most serious moral decision, where our children get educated, we have no choice,” he said.
In a video narrated by Matt Brinkman, the AFP field director for Northern Indiana, Friedman was quoted as blaming centralization for the “deadening uniformity” in education.
In his remarks that followed, Morris said, “The whole beauty of this is the multiplicity of options that exist.”
Morris said charter-school initiatives such as those in Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana and Florida will increase choice and quality. He said one in three new teachers resigns after just two years, and that the absence of merit-based pay discourages good teachers. He said union contracts that protect unproductive teachers will weaken if public school enrollment falls. “Otherwise you'll have tenure in an organization that doesn't exist anymore,” Morris said.
“You reach a point where the schools really have to compete for students, and at that point I think the public schools really change.”
Morris said Friedman reversed a movement toward government control and socialism in American government. He said that reversal peaked in the Reagan years and is “somewhat in remission now.”
“But I do want to tell you all that even though this is a nonpolitical event, an educational event, nonpolitical, the ideals of AFP – free market, less government, lower taxes, less spending – are gonna make one hell of a comeback in Washington next year,” Morris said.
State Director Chase Downham said the Indiana chapter of APF joined a widespread salute to economist Friedman. “We're coordinating with a lot of groups around this country, and we're paying honor to his view that we need freedom of education and school choice,” Downham said.
Brinkman said 118 people attended a similar rally earlier Tuesday in South Bend.
Reaction was generally favorable among the audience, which included many representatives of 912 organizations. “Lots of people call us tea party,” said Bob Nicholas of Wolcottville, a member of Noble 912. “I'm a World War II veteran, and I'm scared for this country,” he said. “You can't keep going in debt. When you're spending 40 cents of every dollar on interest on debt, that doesn't work.”
Judy Ross of Fort Wayne 912 wore a badge reading “I Pray for America.” She said the grass-roots conservative movement will partner with DeKalb 912 for a voter-registration drive in churches this fall.
Rose Blevins, a veteran of more than 30 years of religious education, said many children are in danger of falling through the cracks in the education system. She called for a return to the basics. “Choice is good,” she said, “but how it actually occurs in those schools is going to make the difference.”
Morris, an author and political consultant who once advised President Bill Clinton, regularly appears alongside Fox Network personalities Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.
“You know, I had three or four people who said 'I saw you last night on O'Reilly,'.” Morris told the audience. “Well, Hannity would have a fit. It was actually Hannity. Every Monday I'm on Hannity, and every Wednesday I'm on O'Reilly. That's how I know what day of the week it is.”