There’s no doubt many Democrats reflexively give vouchers and charter schools short shrift because of how successfully those school choice options have been branded right-wing. Never mind that school choice has deep roots on the left; that progressive icons like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hubert Humphrey embraced tuition tax credits for private schools; that Democratic Presidents Clinton and Obama champion charters. Repeat something long enough and loud enough, and between political tribes and echo chambers, alternate reality begins to wall off the real thing.
Which makes what’s happening in education right now that much more encouraging.
Despite the set-in-stone narrative, more and more Democrats in search of real-world solutions are finding ways around the wall. Since we launched our blog 2½ years ago, we’ve noted many of them. But a good bit of anecdotal evidence suggests the pace of Democratic support is growing. In New Jersey, in the midst of a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker didn’t soft pedal when asked about his support for vouchers. In New York, mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has made expanding school choice the centerpiece of his education platform.
These guys aren’t DINOs. Booker, already touted as a future presidential candidate, once lived on a food-stamp budget to raise awareness about Americans who rely on them. Weiner, before a sexting scandal ended his stint as a U.S. Congressman, was the founder of the Middle Class Caucus and a bomb-throwing lefty darling; he once said during the Obamacare debate that every Republican he’d ever met was “a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.” To cite the positions of these pols isn’t to endorse them, but to suggest only critics from a detached fringe would consider them corporatistas in Dem drag.
Increasingly, Democrats are seeing school choice for what it really is – not an ideological weapon to be feared, but a practical tool to be honed. We’ve spotlighted other examples on our blog in recent weeks. Continue Reading →