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Voucher Left

Teachers unions, school choice and the Democratic Party’s retreat

This is the latest post in our series of the center-left roots of school choice. Much of the opposition to private school choice seems to emanate from the Democratic Party, but this wasn’t always the case. Just look at the party platforms. From the 1964 to 1984, the Democrat Party formally supported the public funding of students in private schools. The 1964 platform stated, “New methods of financial aid must be explored, including the channeling of federally collected revenues to all levels of education, and, to the extent permitted by the Constitution, to all schools.” The 1972 platform supported allocating “financial aid by...

A radical’s take on educational freedom

This guest post is part of our continuing series on the center-left roots of school choice. It may be hard for younger readers to imagine a time when to be anti-establishment was a position of the political left. Today, of course, the left is so well-ensconced in positions of power and influence in academia, media, the professions and government that those who criticize any of these bastions are immediately labeled as belonging to a neolithic right that does not appreciate the ever-unfolding benefits of the new establishment’s guidance. In the 1960s, though, to be critical of the establishment was the hallmark of...

‘Diversity. Pluralism. Variety.’

This is the latest post in our series on the voucher left. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democratic icon, was an unabashed supporter of school choice, as we’ve been happy to note. For years, he led an effort to establish tuition tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools – an effort that never became law but did, at one remarkable moment in 1977, draw 50 co-sponsors, 26 of them Republicans and 24 of them Democrats. Except for a massive expansion of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program in 2010, which won backing from more than 40 percent of the state’s...

Proudly alternative & pro school choice

This is the latest post in our series on the diverse roots of school choice. If the Suncoast Waldorf School in Palm Harbor, Fla. is part of a right-wing plot, it’s good at hiding it. Its students cultivate a “food forest.” Its teachers encourage them to stomp in puddles. Its parents sign a consent form that says, I give permission for my child, named above, to climb trees on the school grounds … And yet, the unassuming, apolitical little school is solidly school choice. Sixteen of its 60 students in grades K-8 last year used tax credit scholarships to help defray the...

School choice and sheer bad luck

This is the fourth post in our series on the Voucher Left.  The hope to secure school choice for lower-income parents has invoked many justifications beside free market theory. These broader conceptions of choice, however, have failed to secure serious consideration in political discourse about choice. Devout marketeers often forego, or even oppose, reliance upon these would-be friendly pictures of the effects of choice. They are seen as obscuring, even corrupting, free-market dogma: let individual taste determine what is the good. Personal preference itself becomes the goal: the market is the end instead of the instrument. Those who would argue in...

From sit-ins to school choice

This is the third post in our series on the Voucher Left. Marcus Brandon’s resume starts off like a progressive’s dream. National finance director, Dennis Kucinich for president. Staffer, Progressive Majority. Deputy director, Equality Virginia. But once it rolls into Brandon’s education accomplishments, some fellow progressives get whiplash. During two terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives, Brandon was a leading force behind bills that created vouchers for disabled and low-income students, and removed the state’s cap on charter schools. Inconsistency? Not for Brandon, a rising political star whose family’s civil rights bona fides are unquestioned. “I tell people that my...

Berkeley liberals and the roots of ESAs

This is the second post in our series on the Voucher Left. Way back in 1978, when Bee Gees ruled the radio and kids dumped pinball for Space Invaders, a couple of liberal Berkeley law professors were promoting a variation on “universal” school vouchers that they believed would ensure equity for the poor. Along the way, they foreshadowed a revolutionary twist on parental choice that would make national headlines nearly four decades later. John E. “Jack” Coons and Stephen Sugarman didn’t use the term “education savings accounts” in their book, “Education by Choice.” But they described a sweeping plan for publicly...

A school choice manifesto, from the left

This is the first post in our series on the Voucher Left. It starts by condemning America for failing to provide equal opportunity in education. It ends with a knock on the war in Vietnam. Inbetween, it offers a template for a $15-billion-a-year national voucher plan that “will frankly discriminate in favor of poor children.” Published in 1968, "A Proposal for a Poor Childrens Bill of Rights" is a historical gem – a seminal document of Voucher Left history that remains curiously buried. It was co-written by Theodore “Ted” Sizer. Then dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Sizer would become so...