School Choice and Elections


A pair of items on today’s Wall Street Journal opinion pages connect the issue of school choice with the election last week.  First a column by Jason Riley:

… most policies that effect our daily lives are generated at the state and local level, not in Washington. Nowhere is this more evident than education, where Republicans governors and state legislatures have advanced all manner of school-choice options over the past decade, to the benefit of low-income families. More than three million children now attend charter schools, and private-school choice, including voucher programs, has spread to 20 states and the District of Columbia. Education reformers are concerned that Democratic state-level gains in the midterms could now jeopardize decades of real progress.

I’m not so sure about Riley’s predictions.  As a general matter, the biggest push for school choice (mainly charter schools and voucher-like programs) came when Republicans held the White House, but before the shift toward the GOP at the state level, nationwide.  When a Democrat took the White House but the Democrats lost ground among the state, that momentum seems to have slowed.  So… we’ll see.

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What’s interesting, though, is to combine Riley’s mention of school choice as a political issue across the country with an unsigned editorial on the facing page:

It’s impossible to know for certain what motivates voters, but [Republicans Doug Ducey of Arizona and Ron DeSantis of Florida] appear to have won more minority votes because of their support for school choice. A survey last month by Harvard’s Education Next journal showed 56% of blacks and 62% of Hispanics favored private-school vouchers for low-income families.

And what do you know? According to exit polls, Mr. Ducey received 44% of the Latino vote, which is significantly more than the 30% that Martha McSally tallied in her Senate bid. In Florida, 44% of Latinos and 14% of blacks backed Mr. DeSantis compared to 38% and 12% for Gov. Rick Scott four years earlier.

Liberating kids trapped in failing public schools is a matter of moral principle, but it’s nice to discover that doing the right thing can also pay off politically.

Somehow the infamous statement of former Democrat Vice President Joe Biden that Republicans would put black Americans “back in chains” comes to mind.  The opposite is the truth, and the school choice issue illustrates the point.

  • BasicCaruso

    “…favored private-school vouchers for low-income families.”

    LOL, I’m sure RICFP would be all for another means tested social service benefit.

  • Joe Smith

    It’s impossible to know for certain what motivates voters… Yet the WSJ Ed board is going to make some spurious correlation anyway – and I would guess in FL the black vote differential is not statistically significant.

    ED board forgets to note the FL and AZ have high levels of homeschool and charter school (% of student population) so those populations might be more sensitive to appeals to curtail (and it’s a more a local/state than federal issue).

    DeSantis picked a Latino running mate compared to Gillum’s white progressive one.

    Liberating kids trapped in failing public schools is a matter of moral principle, – Well, the problem in RI is the expansion of charter schools isn’t based on solely “kids trapped in failing public schools” – the second biggest expansion is occuring down in South County with the two *least* diverse charters – just liberating more white, higher income kids..