EDITORIAL: Scoreboard envy

Montgomery County and the gospel of envy

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Some politicians in Maryland’s Montgomery County are afflicted with playground scoreboard envy. They think a little redistribution could equalize their field of dreams.

They’re upset that some schools in more well-to-do parts of the county enjoy nicer amenities, such as scoreboards and electronic message signs, while their less-affluent cousins do without. That’s unfair, they say. Perhaps, but so is life, as John F. Kennedy famously reminded us, and it’s a lesson we all have to learn. Never mind that the nicer amenities were paid for not with county taxpayer funds - which presumably are spread around evenly - but with money raised through the hard work of PTAs, booster clubs and independent fundraisers.The education committee of the Montgomery County Council the other day asked county School Board President Christopher Barclay to revisit the policy that allowed Damascus High School’s athletic booster club to raise $110,000 for a new scoreboard, Winston Churchill High School to raise and spend $80,000 upgrading its scoreboard and Clarksburg High School’s booster club to spend $30,000 on dugouts for the baseball teams. An array of other amenities, ranging from playground improvements to restroom hand dryers have been paid for with private funds.

In the March 20 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, the three members of the education committee lamented that private fundraising and contributions “may lead to or exacerbate inequities among our communities and our schools.” That prompted at least one council member, George Leventhal, a Democrat, to muse that PTAs could be required to give some of the money they raise to schools without a PTA or booster club.

The redistributionist trial balloon turns things on their head. (Perhaps touchdowns and home runs could be equally distributed, too, to make athletic contests “fair.”) The council members who seek to rearrange life aren’t truly interested in engaging with students, parents and community leaders in the less-affluent school districts; if they were, they could encourage parents and kids to organize community bake sales, car washes and grass-cutting. It’s much easier, and more satisfying, to penalize the efforts of others. Students in rich and poor schools alike are getting an unwelcome lesson in how the world works.

Council member Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring, chairman of its education committee, indirectly acknowledged the risk of disincentivizing private efforts, telling Mr. Barclay that she wanted “to explore how we can continue to encourage and support parent and community involvement without undermining the principle of equality.” Those two approaches are mutually exclusive, as community involvement will disappear when “equality” begins taking away the reason parents went to work in the first place.

Winston Churchill - the man, not the school - observed this phenomenon decades ago. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy,” he said. “Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” It’s appropriate that one of the scoreboard upgrades was earned at a high school bearing the name of the heroic wartime British prime minister.The Montgomery County school board and county council members don’t really want to impose the equal sharing of misery, but however inadvertently, they are spreading the gospel of envy. They should be encouraging the underperforming schools to work to improve themselves, not punishing the schools whose PTAs and booster clubs have stepped up to the plate to make those scoreboards and dugouts possible.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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