By JIM WATERS
The Bluegrass Institute
An invective hurled at school-choice supporters by Lexington Democratic Rep. Kelly Flood during a recent legislative committee hearing to consider a bill that would make Kentucky the 19th state to implement a scholarship tax credit program offers a clear demonstration of the Urban Dictionary's description of "ad hominem" as "an attack upon an opponent in order to discredit their argument or opinion" exploited by people "unable to counter their opponent using logic and intelligence."
Flood was frustrated after hearing parents' powerful testimonies about how their children's lives were changed when scholarships opened the door to private, often parochial, schools when public schools they originally attended were providing an inadequate education.
So, this progressive politician launched an ad hominem attack filled with religious bigotry at Heather Huddleston, who runs a Louisville organization that raises money to provide scholarships to students and was sitting at the testimony table alongside bill sponsor Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, and with three parents who had told their stories.
Huddleston's School Choice Scholarships program not only has helped rescue hundreds of poor children in Jefferson and Oldham counties from a system failing to meet their needs, but the 6,000 students on the program's waiting list answer critics' charges that there isn't enough demand for options among Kentucky parents.
Plus, the academic turnaround for these kids is undeniable.
Grade-level proficiency rates for children attending private or parochial school thanks to School Choice Scholarships increase after three years in the program, on average, from 28 to 81 percent in math and 40 percent to 96 percent in reading.
If we can get such powerful results from a relatively small program that raises the money to fund its own scholarships for a few hundred students in just a couple of Kentucky counties, what could happen statewide if individuals and businesses were allowed to contribute to such scholarship programs in exchange for easing their state tax burden?
It would make it possible for thousands of our neediest and most at-risk children to get what wealthy people already can afford -- an effective education.
It just so happens that many of the School Choice Scholarships children have made their improvements while attending parochial schools.
This was too much for Flood, though, who blurted out accusations and bigoted statements at the hearing, all while these parents were still seated at the testimony table.
"Effectively you are asking the state to become your next major donor to raise approximately $25 million to reimburse donors who have a crisis of faith in contributing currently for the past 20 years, specifically in this state to private institutions that are funding schools that are religious, that have been in the headlines for two decades now with chronic, systemic child abuse," Flood sneered.
Flood's outburst was an old trick where ad hominem is launched as a distraction designed to avoid acknowledging the truth of the testimony just offered.
However, it's a new low to allege that a program in which individuals and businesses voluntarily donate to nonprofit tuition organizations so the poorest and neediest among us will have better opportunities in life somehow is aimed at aiding and abetting the sex-abuse scandal involving immoral priests in the Roman Catholic church.
Such a statement is ugly, despicable and reaches a level of intolerance unworthy of our legislature -- even in its most partisan moments -- and well worthy of censure.
There's good news here for school-choice supporters.
This volley of ad hominem attacks by progressive politicians and their ideological brethren in the teachers' unions signal that school-choice detractors have run out of ideas and are unable to defend their opposition to educational liberty.
All of which is good news for many students who could soon be emancipated from failing schools and hopeless futures through scholarships of their own.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky's free-market think tank.