CD11: Harmer responds to public schools issue

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will not seek to close public schools if elected, he told the Contra Costa Times editorial board on Tuesday afternoon. (Watch videos of the editorial board meetings with both Harmer and incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney below.)

Harmer, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, wrote in a 2000 opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that “So long as the state Constitution mandates free public schools, a voucher system (or refundable tuition tax credit) is the best we can do. To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.”

Harmer also co-wrote a similar piece for the Cato Institute.

The piece was intended to be provocative and spur debate over the school voucher issue, Harmer said. He was living in Utah at the time and was a huge proponent of the establishment of a controversial school voucher system, which would have provided parents with money to send their children to private, parochial schools.

When asked directly if he believes that government should stop funding and running schools, Harmer said no.

“I don’t believe public schools should be abolished,” Harmer said. “What I believe is that every child deserves access to a quality education.

As the attorney accurately noted, he sends his four children to public schools in San Ramon and his wife, Elayne, is a substitute teacher for the district.

Harmer has come under considerable fire for his views, however, with coverage in national publications such as Mother Jones and Vanity Fair. The campaign of Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney cites it as “another example of Harmer’s extremist views.”

Watch portions of both the Harmer and McNerney editorial board interviews below. The discussions also featured a wide-ranging discussion of other national issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, fiscal policy and health care reform.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • John W

    Oh, okay, that settles that! Silly of me to think that what he published before he was running for office might reflect what he really believes in and would pursue if he could.

  • Jerry McNerney has voted with Nancy Pelosi on stimulus spending to nowhere with higher unemployment as a result, he voted with Pelosi on Obamacare which is causing 9-47% increases in premiums right now in California. Jerry McNerney did not have a job before his election to Congress…he is a typical liberal, disconnected elitist whose votes are sending this country into ruin.
    Our taxes are about to go up drastically in January because of Obamacare taxes and McNerney and Pelosi’s refusal to extend Bush tax cuts. The national deficit has TRIPLED with McNerney and Pelosi’s votes.
    McNerney and all like him, Garamendi, Miller, Stark, Pelosi, Eshoo, Lofgren, Honda, Woolsey….HAVE TO GO. We cannot afford them.

  • Not David Harmer


    That’s funny David Harmer doesn’t have a job too, and to top it off he doesn’t even live in the 11th CD!


    And Jane, why weren’t you complaining when Pombo was running up the tab? Lets have some consistency here instead of hypocrisy!

  • Patty O’Day

    That typing in the background is really distracting. I can tell it distracts the candidates as well.

  • Wendy Lack

    After attending the Mt. Diablo USD candidate forum this evening, abolishing the rule-bound, inefficient bureaucratic morass called the public school system sounds like a pretty good idea — albeit politically unviable.

    What I heard tonight is the same old, same old and zero hope of the kind of change the district needs to make a quantum leap in improving performance.

    Introducing competition via vouchers is one way to exert sufficient pressure on public schools to increase responsiveness to student needs. Parents need to be liberated so they can vote with their feet.

    Most private schools do a superior job of educating kids at far less cost than do the public schools. Taxpayers would actually save money if parents were given their freedom to shop around for the best fit for their kids. The public school is the most costly and the least successful by any measure.

    Those who can find alternatives to the public school system should do so. It’s a disservice to families and taxpayers alike to trap kids in a system that perenially fails to meet student needs and is primarily focused on bureaucratic rules and satisfying union demands.

  • Elwood

    What Wendy said!

  • Keith S.

    The question of public education is discussed 34 minutes into the interview with Mr. Harmer.

    A reporter rightly–and repeatedly–asks the candidate: Do you believe what you wrote?

    Had they more time, the reporters might have asked: do you support federal spending on public education?

    Revealing interview!

  • John W

    I’m all for competition. Anybody with the means can opt out of public ed and educate their kids through private and parochial schools or home schooling. Within the public school framework, we have charter schools. There are plenty of examples of high quality public school districts right here in the East Bay. We can make things better by both empowering teachers and principals and holding them more accountable and through other reforms. If private schools had to deal with the diverse challenges that public schools handle, they might not be seen as so great either. They get to pick and choose. If somebody wants to go the private school route, great. Just don’t expect to do it at the expense of public schools by asking us to peel off funding for public schools and handing it over to you to pay the tuition. Your choice. Your tab. If somebody wants to rely on their own private security arrangements rather than the police force, good for them. It doesn’t mean we’re going to hand over part of the police budget to help you pay for it.

  • Kathleen Caine

    What John said!

  • It’s real simple: fund every child equally and let parents choose the schools they prefer for their children.

    If parents want to send their kids to MDUSD that’s their choice. If they want to send them to some other school, that’s their choice; just like the taking a Pell Grant and choosing between St Mary’s or Cal, or selecting a doctor (while you can) before Obamacare kicks in.

  • John’s idea that “don’t make us peel off funding from public schools” is nonsense. Such an attitude only serves the government and teacher unions, not parents or kids. There is a lot of room for government to be involved in education but it is not competent to run the schools themselves as we have learned in California and across the country over the past 50 years.

    Empower parents, not unions and their puppets

  • Wendy Lack

    Though the voucher concept is hugely popular with parents, it’s not so with schools, especially parochial schools which justifiably are cautious about accepting government funding. The nose in the tent concern is the primary reason that most parochial schools oppose vouchers.

    So vouchers are great in theory, but tough to execute in practice.

    That said, I’ll also add that it makes a huge difference in student learning when government is not involved in any aspect of a school — we’ve experienced this first hand with a student at Hillsdale College which accepts zero state or federal monies (even government loans).

    The academic freedom this affords professors benefits student learning like no other school environment (public or private). And elimination of state-mandated politically-correct mickey mouse multicultural B.S. courses frees up tons of time in student schedules for, well, actual learning! What a concept.

    Which also is why homeschooled students receive a vastly superior education than that available in any group classroom.

    And again, private schools — K-12 as well as universities — are capable of delivering superior service at a significantly lower price than government schools.

    The fact is everything the government does is lower quality at a higher price. The private sector can always provide services better, faster and cheaper. Which is one reason why taxpayers are tired of paying inflated prices for mediocre (or worse, in the case of Mt. Diablo USD schools) service — and seek to limit government services to the bare Constitutional minimum.

    Who in their right mind wants to pay top dollar for crap? That’s essentially what taxpayers are doing by funding most government services. Sad but true.

  • It’s not government money or vouchers, Wendy, when its parents spending their own dollars on schooling of their choice.

    Bigoted and unconstitutional Blaine Amendment language aside (in the constitutions of western states), government has no business favoring and subsidizing one form of religious (parochial or secular) pedagogical worldview over any other.

  • Is anybody watching these videos?

    At 5:13 Jerry McNerney predicts that if we stop stimulus spending we’ll have a double dip.

    Watch as Jerry McNerney explains his plans for doing nothing differently. He voted on $1.3 Trillion in spending already, and he reveals that it’s not enough.

    And if you’re looking for some humor: in the beginning he says Joe Biden had some good ideas about Afganistan.

  • curt

    While Dave Jones has publicly stated that he would not raise money from special interests he will affect as Commissioner, his latest fundraising report demonstrates the hypocrisy of Dave Jones and his campaign.

    His report released today shows $15,000 from attorneys at Shernoff, Bidart, Echeverria, which advertises itself as “Lawyers for Insurance Policyholders,” $1,300 from Mannion & Lowe whose business is “representing plaintiffs in disputes with their insurance carriers,” and $2,500 from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips whose clients include Metropolitan Life Insurance, Monumental Life Insurance Company, and an unnamed “largest workers’ compensation carrier in California.” Health care contributors who will be affected by federal health care reform issues before the Commissioner include United Pharmacists Network ($1,000), Union of American Physicians & Dentists ($2,000), and CA Optometric PAC ($5,000).

    Perhaps the most egregious example of Jones’ hypocrisy is his acceptance of a total this year of $11,000 from the law firm Roxborough, Pomerance, Nye and Adreani, who in March filed a major lawsuit with the Department of Insurance over health insurance issues.

    The Los Angeles Times, Capitol Weekly, and other publications have previously exposed Jones and his fundraising tactics. When caught by the media fundraising from insurance interests, Jones and his campaign only had the following to say:

    “‘If they list Mother Teresa on their website, should I return it?’ Jones said. ‘I would just ask that it be kept in perspective.'” (Sacramento Bee, October 13, 2010)

    “Jones spokeswoman Sandra Sanchez said the campaign screens contributions for licensed insurance companies and brokers but would not automatically reject money from a group representing those providers or a PAC funded by insurance money.

    “‘It’s very, very difficult to track every single organization to find out what money they accept and what they don’t,’ Sanchez said.” (California Watch, October 11, 2010)

    Jones will cripple California’s economy, raise workers comp rates exponentially and kill private sector jobs. VOTE NO ON DAVE JONES!