Democratic pols in Washington DC support school choice — at least when it comes to their own children. As Clint Bolick (who is affiliated with two fantastic groups, the Alliance for School Choice and the Goldwater Institute) argues in today’s Wall Street Journal, these politicians don’t want their kids stuck in dismal public schools, but have no problem condemning other people’s children to that fate:
“Indeed, a nearly perfect correlation exists among Democratic presidential candidates who have exercised school choice for their own children and those who would deny such choices to the parents of other children.”
When the Clintons came to Washington, D.C. in 1993, they could choose any public school for Chelsea. Being responsible parents of means, Bill and Hillary Clinton sent her instead to the elite private Sidwell Friends School. Two years later Mr. Clinton vetoed a bill that would have allowed low-income D.C. parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools (a subsequent version of that program was signed into law by George W. Bush).
And today presidential candidate Mrs. Clinton continues to stridently oppose school choice. In a speech to the National Education Association she vowed “never to abandon our public schools” — speaking apparently as a politician, not a parent.
John Edwards, Mr. Populist, decries that “America has two school systems — one for the affluent and one for everyone else.” He should know. When he joined the U.S. Senate he sent his children to a religious school because, according to USA Today, the D.C. “public schools are deeply troubled.” Mr. Edwards, however, opposes private school choice for low-income families on the curious grounds that this would “drain resources” from public schools. By such logic Mr. Edwards himself “drained” approximately $132,000 from the D.C. public schools.
Al Gore, who may yet join the presidential race, has said empathetically, “If I was a parent of a child who went to an inner-city school that was failing, I might be for vouchers, too.” But he isn’t, and so he is not. Mr. Gore sent all of his children to elite private schools in the nation’s capital, like the one he attended growing up. But he militantly opposes school choice for low-income families.”
Clint notes that there are a few exceptions: Gov. Vilsack signed a school choice bill into law in Iowa (Gov. Vilscak recently dropped out to the race however) and Sen. Biden has supported school choice. Sen. Barack Obama has yet to make his views on school choice clear, leaving hope that he could become a supporter of this important education reform:
“The mystery man is Sen. Barack Obama, who sends his child to a private school in Chicago yet once referred to school vouchers as “social Darwinism.” Still, he says that on education reform, “I think a good place to start would be for both Democrats and Republicans to say . . . we are willing to experiment and invest in anything that works.”
Well, school choice works. Every study that compares children who applied for school choice scholarships and received them with those who applied but did not shows improved academic performance. More important, every study that has examined the effect of school choice competition has found significantly improved performance by public schools.
Given their track records it is doubtful how many candidates will agree with Sen. Obama’s professed openness to experiment. But as he might say, we can always have the audacity to hope.”