Rand Paul signals Republican push on school choice

Jul 31, 2013 by

Activists, parents and students involved in the charter school movement extolled the virtues of school choice during a forum in Washington, D.C. hosted by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday.

Administrators at several D.C.-area charter schools gave testimony on the comparative success of their programs. And parents and students who were the beneficiaries of school choice explained how their lives were changed by winning the lottery and receiving vouchers to escape failing public schools.

Paul was joined by fellow Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. All three Republicans are eager to make school choice a top policy priority in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s something we need to talk about,” Paul said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Paul and Alexander toured a Nashville-area charter school earlier this week, and have plans to visit others schools in Milwaukee and Chicago.

School choice — the idea that families, rather than the government, should decide how their public education dollars are spent and which schools their kids attend — is a useful policy issue for Paul, who wants to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal to minority groups.

Many of the forum’s panelists were minority students and parents, who are disproportionately impacted by poorly-performing public schools. Several thanked Paul and Alexander for starting the discussion about expanding school choice.

Though many Democrats support school choice, President Obama hasn’t pushed the issue and anti-choice teachers unions remain a powerful bloc within the party.

The political influence of educators and administrators at traditional schools is a formidable obstacle to school choice reform, the panelists agreed.

Charter school companies and voucher programs have received considerable negative publicity lately. A Washington Post investigation concluded that many D.C.-area school programs receiving federal voucher money were poorly administered.

Despite these concerns, Alexander maintained that the K-12 funding system should try to emulate the more successful college funding system. At the college level, students may receive federal money to attend schools of their choice, he noted.

Forcing elementary and high school students to attend failing public schools is cruel and coercive, said Alexander.

“Other than the military draft, school pupil assignment is the most coercive thing in American life,” he said. “We got rid of the draft but we still have pupil assignment.”

It’s not clear what federal legislation advancing school choice would look like, though Congress could ask states to implement more voucher systems and charter schools in order to receive federal education dollars.

via Rand Paul signals Republican push on school choice | The Daily Caller.

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