This week, in a Facebook discussion with a person who seems to be one of his constituents, Representative Brad Roae (R-Crawford/Erie) felt it was appropriate to compare school board members in Pennsylvania blaming charter schools for the financial difficulties of their districts to Adolf Hitler blaming Jews for “everything that was wrong with the world.”
I’m not sure whether I should be more offended as a Jew or as a policy analyst by Representative Roae’s remark.
It is, of course, morally offensive to anyone who grasps the evil of Hitler’s murder of 6 million Jews, to compare it to any other crime. A general rule of thumb about Hitler comparisons is to not make Hitler comparisons. But to compare it to a public policy choice like the opposition of school boards to charter schools would be doubly offensive if it were not so utterly ridiculous.
The proper place of charter schools in our education system and, to take another issue Roae raises, the best way to provide pensions to teachers, is a complicated issue that deserves careful and detailed analysis—the kind of analysis we try to produce at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. (And the kind, by the way, that has not in the past led us to oppose all charter schools or all changes in our pensions.)
Rhetorical bombshells like those produced by Roae, are the opposite of that kind of detailed and careful analysis. If Roae were interested in honest thought rather than propaganda he would recognize that school boards who oppose pension “reform” might actually have a good point—that hiring and retaining good teachers is impossible if we don’t pay them well (which is a lesson people, like Roae, who support the free market always seem to forget when it comes to public employees.)
Roae’s rhetorical bombshell demeans not just the work of those of us who try to analyze and advocate honestly for good public policy, but also the work of the many legislators on both sides of the aisle who take their responsibility to help produce good public policy seriously. Roae owes all of us an apology.