Presidential hopefuls exercise school choice, but deny it to others
by Clint Bolick
There’s something about our nation’s capital that converts many leading Democrats to school choice. But in most cases this extends only to their own children — not to the millions of children in failing public schools.
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 other parents.
When the Clintons came to Washington, D.C. in 1993, they sent Chelsea to the 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. In a speech to the National Education Association, presidential candidate Mrs. Clinton has vowed “never to abandon our public schools” — speaking apparently as a politician, not a parent.
John Edwards 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 private religious school. 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.
There is only one candidate, Sen. Joe Biden, who has both sent his children to private school and supported school choice for others.
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 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. But as he might say, we can always have the audacity to hope.
Mr. Bolick is president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice and senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.