School Choice Is a Smart Political Move
Fans of educational freedom in Iowa are doing a victory lap after school choice advocates cleaned up in GOP primaries. The results are a win for those who want families to decide where and how their children learn, and also point to a positive strategy in an otherwise toxic political environment. Amid a storm of stupid culture-war memes and finger-pointing, proposals for charter schools, homeschool freedom, education savings accounts, and vouchers are upbeat and attractive alternatives.
“I might as well come out and say it,” State Rep. Dennis Bush (R–Cherokee) complained when Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed a primary challenge against him. “The governor is trying to use this election as a referendum for her voucher bill.”
The governor gambled on supporting challengers to her own party’s sitting legislators after they killed her proposal to let education money follow up to 10,000 Iowa students to the schools of their choice instead of subsidizing government institutions without regard for family preferences.
“Four challengers she endorsed won their primaries, including a challenger to the chairman of the House education committee who fought her bill,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted. “Other school-choice candidates running for open seats also won, several with Ms. Reynolds’s endorsement. Eight House candidates backed by the American Federation for Children Action Fund, which supports school-choice candidates, won their races. A ninth race, for a Senate seat, is headed to a recount.”
Arizona is another hopeful venue for school choice proposals.
“I just introduced legislation to provide every Arizona child the ability to go to the school of their family’s choice,” State Rep. Ben Toma (R–Peoria), the House majority leader, announced on June 14.
Like the Iowa proposal, Arizona’s HB 2853 would dedicate money to educating students where they choose rather than just funneling it to government schools. The bill has 26 co-sponsors.
“HB 2853 expands eligibility for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to every family in the state,” according to the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute. “Families who participate would receive over $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, ‘learning pods,’ tutoring, or any other kinds of educational service that would best fit their students’ needs outside the traditional public school system.”
Arizona is already fertile soil for education options, but expanding the scholarship program would further establish choice as the norm rather than keeping public schools as the default. A similar proposal passed in 2018, but was beat back by a confusingly framed ballot measure pushed by opponents of education freedom despite polling indicating plurality support for choice.
In recent years, government-run schools lost what luster they had as they fumbled distance-learning in response to COVID-19, canceled classes without warning, and hosted battles over masking and politicized lessons. Pandemic policy is fading as an issue, but that just made room for more fighting over who gets to spin the lessons that kids are taught. Conservatives want kids taught traditional views of gender and sexuality, while the left pushes racial
Article from Reason.com