I am just going to let Derrell Bradford say his piece on school choice, after which, I am going to let him drop the mic. Because he can:
I am a Democrat, and I support vouchers, tax credits, etc. with all of my heart and in the deepest and truest place in my being. And there are a few reasons for this. First, I had the experience of getting a voucher when there were none in Maryland (as there still, unfortunately, aren’t any) and that experience literally saved my life. I never go to Dartmouth or the University of Pennsylvania without that, and I wake up every day knowing that more kids should have that chance. Second, I’ve had too many friends, family members, and neighbors, wrecked by schools that did not work and that had long histories of not working. Educational opportunity is a personal thing for me…and every kid’s future is more important than preserving anyone’s notion of residential assignment as the primary way we distribute education.
And maybe the most important thing for my friends on the left is that we would never support delivering health care the same way we deliver education. If you had to go to the hospital that was closest to you just because you lived near it the world would end…no one would stand for it. But we force families to get their education precisely that way. How does that make sense? We have these discussions about wealth inequality but our education system distributes quality through the housing market, which is absolutely a wealth proxy. If you’re for forcing people to buy “free” education with a mortgage then it’s not free and it certainly isn’t “public.”
Vouchers, charters…choice…to me they inform a worldview about education where there is no 100% solution. There are, instead, 100 one-percent solutions. You need choice—accountable and transparent of course—just like you need teacher tenure and evaluation reform. Just like in the real world you need both laws, and the police. Law without the police is anarchy. The police without law are an army. These things compliment one another. And again, the wealthiest families know this already. They’ve got plenty of choices. The only folks who don’t have them (or who have them in short supply) are poor.
I don’t want to rant on but there is one more important thing. I tell folks all the time that President Obama is the most important school choice story in America. Parochial school in Indonesia, and a scholarship to the prestigious Punahou school in Honolulu. Want to know the kind of difference expanding choices for minority kids can make? Just check out 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.