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Local charter schools and city voucher programs can help students by wresting power from education bureaucracies and returning it to parents, teachers and communities. But suburban parents are unlikely to endorse universal school choice because they think it undermines the school decisions they make when selecting their place of residence.

Mr. Ryan points to the suburbs in the same way Gen. Pickett pointed at the Union troops. Years after the battle, when asked why the charge at Gettysburg failed, Pickett replied, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”

Phil Brand is author of “The Neighbor’s Kid: A Cross-Country Journey in Search of What Education Means to Americans “(October 2010, Capital Research Center).