Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Direct Democracy Could Sometimes Crush the Interests of a Minority in Society"

What’s wrong with a public referendum for a charter school? It’s “democratic,” right? Why not subject each aspiring charter to a public vote, as proposed in Assembly Bill 1877?

From today’s New York Times (regarding a Federal lawsuit in Colorado):
One professor of constitutional law, Wilson R. Huhn at the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio, said that recent scholarly research supported the Madisonian notion that direct democracy could sometimes crush the interests of a minority in society — in votes, for example, to ban same-sex marriage.
Sometimes it takes leadership from legislators, which is why Gov. Christie’s suggestion that NJ hold a public referendum on same-sex marriage has elicited scorn from civil rights heroes like John Lewis. Here’s Representative Lewis’s remarks:
"Apparently the governor of the state has not read his recent history books. We would never have won (civil rights for African-Americans with a referendum). The actions of Congress and executive orders brought down those signs that said 'colored only' and 'whites only. If two women or two men want to get married, that is a question of human dignity and of human rights," Lewis said. "The day will come when people look back at this and say 'we were just silly.'"
Congressman Rush Holt added, "For the governor to say a referendum should replace courage - that shows he doesn't understand history.”

For the sponsors of A 1877 to advocate public approval for a new charter shows that they don't understand history.

4 comments:

Deb said...

There are good discussions to be had regarding A1877. And I have had many of those with legislators, and other people engaged in looking for solutions.

But I am back here beating a dead horse it seems. Can you explain to me why it is okay for voters to vote you in (or out) of office, for voters to vote on a referendum to build or renovate a new school, and in some areas vote on a school budget, but NOT vote on whether tax payer money is spent on charter schools?

And if we take one more moment to make sure the horse is really dead, how about the minorities who are consistently underrepresented at charter schools - how well are they being represented in the current system?

Are you defending the DoE decision making abilities as superior to the voters? Are you suggesting that trying to mobilize and engage communities to take part in their own schools as a bad idea?

You seem to live in a very comfortable elitist world secure in your knowledge that you simply know better and that people like you can make better decisions for others than they can hope to make for themselves. Thank you for reminding us why local control is so important.

Deb said...

And in case anyone does not make it to the NYT article cited here, here is the rest of the statement made by the attorney quoted by Waters:


"One professor of constitutional law, Wilson R. Huhn at the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio, said that recent scholarly research supported the Madisonian notion that direct democracy could sometimes crush the interests of a minority in society — in votes, for example, to ban same-sex marriage.

But as a legal matter, Professor Huhn and several other prominent legal scholars said, the precedent of Luther stood like an implacable guard at the courthouse door.

“If you want an opinion from me, they don’t stand a chance,” Professor Huhn said, referring to the anti-Tabor legal team.

Plaintiffs and their lawyers concede that they have an uphill fight. But they say that Colorado’s journey with Tabor is special, and different from any other legal case or state. The law restricts spending and requires a popular vote on tax increases, which the plaintiffs say has led to a system of end-runs and shell games to keep government operations going."

Not analogous. Even the plaintiff's lawyers that this is not like other legal fights.

Christine said...

I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Ms. Waters. Yes, we should ALWAYS STRIVE for having as much voice as possible (either direct or represented) in how our government operates. The ONLY EXCEPTION is in civil rights matters where the outcome of a referendum could oppress a minority class. Opening charter schools is in no way comparable to any civil rights matter. Students all have access to a public school. They do not all have access to a charter school. If anything, it is a special privilege to open a charter school, not a right. I don’t even think you understood the article you quoted.

kallikak said...

"For the sponsors of A 1877 to advocate public approval for a new charter shows that they don't understand history."

ALL students in NJ are guaranteed placement in a "thorough and efficient system of free public schools." Is the failure to open a charter school for a handful of students in a failing district "crush(ing) the interests of a minority in society" or halting the diversion of scarce resources away from the resolution of a larger problem*?

*whose correction at the local level is the responsibility of a school board that will have no say in the operation of the charter school.