EDITORIAL: Five cheers for choice
For many liberals, “choice” begins and ends with abortion. This inconsistency is where advocates of education reform should challenge the defenders of the status quo, which nearly everyone agrees has failed miserably.
“The education-reform movement … brings knives to gunfights,” Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, conceded in an interview last week at The Washington Times. “We’ve got to learn to play much more hard ball … We just haven’t done that very well.”
The reformers should take their cue from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. He ridiculed Matt Damon, actor, Hollywood A-list liberal and tedious opponent of school choice, for enrolling his children in a private school when he moved to Los Angeles from New York. “Matt Damon refuses to enroll kids in Los Angeles public schools,” Mr. Bush said in a Twitter attack. “Choice OK for Damon, why not everyone else?” Touche.
Mr. Damon — whose new science-fiction movie “Elysium” is rife with class warfare — says he’s an advocate for public schools for everybody, umm, ah, just not for his children. “Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal,” Mr. Damon said, replying to Mr. Bush’s tweet. “I’m trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system.” Since “progressive education” is perfumed code for “liberal indoctrination,” we can’t imagine why Mr. Damon can’t find what he’s looking for in Hollywood.
Mr. Enlow says he doesn’t “begrudge famous people” like Mr. Damon choosing private schools, but he thinks it’s “immoral and abhorrent that everyone doesn’t have that same choice.” His foundation, named for founders Milton and Rose Friedman, is dedicated to promoting school choice as “the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America.” The foundation compiles “The ABCs of School Choice,” described as “the comprehensive guide to every private school choice program in America.”
The foundation counts 47 school-choice programs now available across the nation, enabled by either vouchers or tax credits, and 21 of them were either begun or expanded over the past three years. Since 2011 alone, statewide voucher programs have opened in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and most recently North Carolina, where Gov. Pat McCrory on July 26 signed the Opportunity Scholarship Act. This program will offer qualifying low-income families 2,300 scholarships worth $4,200 each to enable a child to go to a private school.
The programs in Louisiana and Indiana are “the big kahunas” of school choice, foundation spokeswoman Susan Meyers says, because after the third year, the caps on the number of participants will be removed.
Although each of the five states with new school-choice programs have Republican governors, Mr. Enlow says the Louisiana law enacted by the legislature passed with the assistance of “a ton of Democrats.” The Texas Public Policy Foundation hailed the North Carolina law as a nonpartisan triumph: “School choice should not be a Democrat/Republican issue. It should always be about doing what is best for students.”
A universal voucher program, says Mr. Enlow, “would benefit the rich hardly at all, the middle class somewhat, and the poor disproportionately,” noting that support for such programs is “astronomical” among low-income families and “phenomenal” among blacks and Hispanics. If so, this gives the Republicans a potent weapon in the debate, and Republican candidates should use it, particularly if the liberals bring guns.
The Washington Times