…why not give people one on how their children are educated? That’s
another significant issue that separates the presidential candidates.
Sen. John McCain brought up the issue of schools at the Saddleback
Civil Forum, emphasizing his position as “Choice and competition,
choice and competition…charter schools, homeschools, voucher
systems…all families should have the same opportunities.”
The WSJ’s Opinion Journal has this sort-of wonkish piece that does break it all down into what’s working, and where school choice is heading.
Washington is the best example of three important
educational conclusions: School choice (charter schools and vouchers)
is improving the education of students; it is wildly popular among
parents with children in public schools; and it provokes vigorous
opposition from by teachers unions and the liberal political
establishment. And it is an issue that deeply divides the Democratic
and Republican presidential candidates, which means the November
election may well determine its future.
So look at the differences between the two candidates on school
choice. Starting with Sen. Obama….no, starting with the teacher’s union
that strongly opposes school choice and carries political clout.
The National Education Association says “there is no
need to set up new threats to schools for not performing” (they have
that backwards); that “vouchers were not designed to help low-income
children” (but they do); and “despite desperate efforts to make the
voucher debate about school choice and improving opportunities for
low-income students, vouchers remain an elitist strategy.” But of
course there is nothing elitist about helping low-income children leave
failed public schools.
Now what about Sen. Obama?
Barack Obama’s thinking matches the NEA’s. In February
he said, “If there was any argument for vouchers, it was, ‘Let’s see if
the experiment works.’ And if it does, whatever my preconception, you
do what is best for the kids.” But when that drew public attention, his
campaign reminded us “that throughout his career he has voted against
voucher proposals” and his education plan “does not include vouchers,
in any shape or form.”
(an important reversal, based on pressure)
Earlier this summer he spoke of his opposition to
vouchers and the “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice”–very
similar to the language the NEA president used in criticizing John
McCain for embracing “the tired old rhetoric on vouchers.”
Which is always tired old rhetoric intended to shut down the conversation.
But McCain is talking about it plenty.
Sen. McCain is of the opposite judgment; he is strongly
for school choice. His Web site says, “Public education should be
defined as one in which our public support for a child’s education
follows that child into the school the parent chooses,” and “school
choice for all who want it, and expansion of Opportunity Scholarships .
. . will all be a part of a serious agenda of education reform.”
Reform is about change, from the intolerable failure of our public
schools to an improved system of opportunities for families. So, who’s
the candidate of change?
We have to get this right. Children are the hope of the future.