School Choice opponents want people to only listen – not think
At the June 5th Cato-Civitas school choice event former Democratic State Sen. Joel Ford was one of five panelists who shared his thoughts on school choice. Ford even had the audacity to say he’s pro school choice and pro public school.
Evidently the thought was too much for Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch to wrap his arms around so he fired off an article that goes after Ford and claims that overzealous school choice backers harm the public schools.
Not one to back down, Ford rightfully challenged Nordstrom’s comments on Twitter. And, I must say it was quite entertaining to watch a young white liberal tell a mature, articulate African-American man how he ought to think about public education and school choice.
But back to the Nordstrom article, it offers nothing new to the debate. Others and myself have responded to most of the topics raised in the article (For starters see: here, here here, here and here), so there is no point in going over the same ground.
However, I would like to offer a few observations about the Left and school choice.
If you look at the polling data, the argument over school choice is tilting in favor of advocates and has been tilting that way for some time. Despite polling numbers, the Left continues to control the narrative and a portion of the political leadership. Nordstrom and others are experts at keeping the discussion focused on the public schools and the supposed lack of money for programs or teachers. The focus is typically on inputs; notice the reference on dollars throughout Nordstrom’s article.
The discussion on school choice however is not about inputs, it is about outputs. Or the lack of satisfactory outputs. Since 2010-11, North Carolina has spent almost $74 billion on the public schools. Yet today only 45 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 demonstrate grade level proficiency. Too many business leaders complain graduates are unprepared for work or higher education. Schools struggle to meet these challenges. When they fail, and students struggle, parents cry for options. Charter schools, the Opportunity Scholarship Program and Personal Education Savings Accounts are the products of those discussions.
Because Joel Ford did what any other parent would do when they saw that their child needed a better educational opportunity, he is labeled as anti-public school by the Left. It’s a label that’s more revealing of the Left. The Left doesn’t want parents to have a choice or students to access better educational opportunities. They don’t want their educational expertise or authority challenged. They want to keep their monopoly power over the public schools and won’t allow it to be challenged. Anyone who does will be chastised. Understood?
Nordstrom and others talk incessantly about funding and adequacy but ask how much funding would be adequate or how much salary would be adequate for teachers and watch them get quiet. Opponents of school choice are quick to say school choice siphons funds from the public schools. They ignore, however, that the North Carolina legislature can use its general revenue fund to create educational programs outside the public-school system (see. Hart v. State of North Carolina et al).
The North Carolina State Constitution says, “Religion knowledge and morality being necessary to good government and happiness of mankind, schools, libraries and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.” In the last quarter century, North Carolina has said there is more than one way to encourage the means of education.
The flood of students flocking to charter schools, the Opportunity Scholarship Program and other choice programs tells us families are crying out for more educational options.
North Carolina has many good public schools. We all know that. However, we also know there are schools that are struggling. To deny such, is to deny reality. And even schools that are good for most are not good for all.
School choice allows children stuck in a school not serving their needs to access a better education. Those who do so don’t make parents or a policymaker anti-public school. It does however make you pro parent since school choice transfers the authority over how and where a child is educated from the school district to the parent, a sentiment shared by eighty percent or more of those polled on such questions.
Does school choice harm public schools? A better question is why the Left ignores the harm failing schools have inflicted on children. That Nordstrom and Governor Roy Cooper oppose choice options and are willing to shut down existing scholarship programs that help students tells you all you need to know.
The sides are clear and drawn. And the Left is standing in the school house door on the wrong side of this issue.
Thanks Joel for showing us once again that the hypocrisy and paternalism of the Left is ever present.