Why doesn’t the Left trust the poor to choose their children’s schools? That question leaps to mind as we enter National School Choice Week. (The question is a sequel to an earlier one, Why doesn’t the Left trust the law-abiding poor to own guns? which I posed in an earlier post.)
After all, nearly everyone agrees that the atrocious education provided by most public schools that serve the poor is a tragedy for the innocent children involved. The Left typically expresses outrage over “inequality,” yet one of the starkest inequalities between the poor and the more affluent is the latter’s ability to choose the public (and private) schools their children will attend. Worse, the typical school with a poor population exerts a powerful drag on its students’ future opportunities and prosperity.
Another reason I’m baffled by the amount of opposition to school choice on the left: School choice is actually more common in some countries that the Left usually admires for their difference from America–for example, Sweden. Cato’s Andrew Coulson looked at dozens of international studies, and after his deep dive into multicultural analysis he concluded that allowing parents to have market choices in education is the best way to help them provide their children a better education:
These findings, moreover, span some of the most diverse cultural and economic settings on Earth: from the United States to Colombia, from the urban slums of Hyderabad to the fishing villages of Ghana. The parents whose children benefit from market-like school systems range from some of the most privileged on the planet to some of the least literate and most destitute.
To be fair, not all persons left of the center reject school choice for the poor. Here’s a Berkeley law professor pleading with his peers:
Liberals should support well-designed school choice plans that include the participation of religious schools. It is a cliché among liberals that our society should pay most attention to the needs of children from low-income families, often from non-white families. These are the children who would benefit most from well-designed school choice plans; they are also the worst-served by today’s public schools.
And perhaps the most shocking example this week comes from a school choice rally in Texas where Sen. Ted Cruz, a Hispanic Republican and arguably the most bellicose conservative in the Senate, shared a platform with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, an African-American whose lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 3 out of 100. Sen. Cruz declared that “school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” and Jackson Lee told the crowd that limiting parents’ opportunities is an injustice to all students, “and I’m going to fight that injustice.”
Give Sen. Cruz the last word:
I'm convinced ... parents love their children a heckuva lot more than the government does. What school choice is all about is giving low-income kids the same choice, the same opportunity the rich and middle class have always had. Every kid in this country, no matter their circumstances, no matter their family background, if given a fair chance at an education can achieve something extraordinary.
FOOTNOTE: To learn more about the status of school choice in your state, visit School Choice Week’s round-up here. For "The ABC's of School Choice," read the 2014 report of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Donors seeking advice on ways to promote school choice should read the Philanthropy Roundtable's guidebooks Investing in Charter Schools; Saving America's Urban Catholic Schools; and the chapter on the Bradley Foundation's school choice work in Strategic Investments in Ideas: How Two Foundations Changed America. And while you're at it, say a prayer for the parents and children who most need more choices.