- - Friday, October 10, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

David Sherfinski accurately describes shifting allegiances that might seem frustrating for school-choice advocates, as inner-city Democrats increasingly favor parental choice among a range of public-private options while rural Republicans, failing to see much benefit from choice for their far-flung constituencies, vote to stifle promising initiatives (“Inner-city Democrats warm to school choice as rural Republicans balk,” Web, Oct. 6).

It stands to reason, however, that these two trends eventually will merge to bolster a unified and potent choice movement. Two factors will be in play: Having finally experienced the benefits of educational freedom for their children, inner-city (largely black) parents will not want to relinquish their right to choose. That just doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, technology will be a force driving the kind of innovation that can benefit isolated rural school districts particularly.

Specifically, virtual charter schools, offered as a statewide choice, could bring resources to rural communities that greatly expand the range of opportunities for students. Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation has noted, for example, that small rural schools are least likely to offer Advanced Placement courses for their students (only about a third do). A virtual charter school “could mean the difference between hundreds of high school students taking AP calculus or physics courses, versus having to be content with what’s available in their small brick-and-mortal school.”

In addition, it is likely that constituents will be letting Republican lawmakers know they would like to have educational options outside the purview of government bureaucracies and made possible by such mechanisms as tax-credit scholarships, vouchers and education savings accounts.

After all, how much longer can rural Republicans credibly run for office as advocates of a free market in goods and services but insist on education being an exception?

ROBERT HOLLAND

Senior fellow for education policy

The Heartland Institute

Chicago

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