The budget theater continues on the grounds of the State Capitol with high school students protesting the Governor’s budget cuts and being exhorted on by the Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell. Watching this spectacle two things came to mind.

First, why weren’t these kids in school? And second, although we have been going through this exercise about education spending and proposed cuts during every budget season for I don’t know how many years, the problem never seems to get resolved. We keep spending more money with not much to show for it in turning out the kind of educated workforce our economy needs now and into the future. Although California kids should rank high nationally in how to skip school and protest since they get a lot of practice.

Maybe student performance is not strictly a money problem. And maybe we need to look at the public schools and introduce innovations that are paying dividends in other states like vouchers and school choice.

I can hear the California Teachers Association screaming now that this is a Republican plan to destroy the public schools and attack the teachers. But that is just the talk of a union that likes the current system,  is afraid of competition and fears the possibility that it could be successful.

In 2003, President Bush signed into law the D.C Opportunity Scholarship Program  that provides school vouchers for 2,000 children, most of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds. It began as a 5-year pilot program, narrowly passed by a Republican Congress and has been threatened every year since, but the parents seem to like it. Every year, applications for the program have tripled and it is changing lives.

But most Democrats in Congress, including Senator Barbara Boxer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sided with their patrons in the Teacher’s unions. Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, exhibited real political courage and supported the plan. Scroll down in this statement and see what she said on the floor of the U.S. Senate in January 2004 regarding the D.C School Choice program

In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus stood in the schoolhouse doorway of Little Rock’s Central High School and denied entry to African American students. President Eisenhower sent troops to ensure that those students could get the education they deserved. See what one of the beneficiaries of Eisenhower’s action has said by clicking here.

I will leave you with two questions.

Who is standing in the schoolhouse doorway now?

And for Senator Feinstein, if it is good enough for 2,000 school children of Washington D.C. who were trapped in failing schools, how about the thousands of schoolchildren of East L.A. trapped in failing schools?