CNN commentator Roland Martin hits the nail on the head today by proclaiming the need for more school vouchers, and highlighting the interest group politics that has blocked or slowed down the needed reform (H/T Mike Antonucci). His article is titled “McCain right, Obama wrong on school vouchers,” but the larger point is that it’s time to move school choice beyond partisan politics on a national scale.
I fundamentally believe that vouchers are simply one part of the entire educational pie. There simply is no one sure-fire way to educate a child. We’ve seen public schools do a helluva job — I went to them from K through college — and so have private schools, home schooling, charter schools and even online initiatives. This is the kind of innovation we need, not more efforts to prevent a worthy idea from moving forward.
Obama’s opposition is right along the lines of the National Education Association, and the teachers union is a reliable and powerful Democratic ally. But this is one time where he should have opposed them and made it clear that vouchers can force school districts, administrators and teachers to shape up or see their students ship out.
It is unconscionable to ask a parent to watch as his child is stuck in a failing school or district, and ask him to bank on a politician coming up with more funds to improve the situation. Fine, call vouchers a short-term solution to a long-term problem, but I’d rather have a child getting the best education — now — rather than having to hope and pray down the line.
The current election may yet change the terms of the debate surrounding school choice. For years, acceptance of vouchers and tax credits has grown among minority communities, traditionally represented by the Democratic Party, many of whom have seen the failed schools and the hope provided by choice firsthand. Many in the Republican Party support expanding school choice because of their beliefs in competition or smaller government. But no matter how they come to the conclusion, the time for real and lasting positive change.
This really isn’t the simple partisan political issue some have made it out to be – nor should it be. And after this year, maybe more Americans of all political persuasions and affiliations will come to see we need to stop limiting possibilities and opportunities in education for American students.