Perhaps the most important issue that impacts the future of our country is the education of our youth. Education is the key to every child’s future, no matter what their race or economic station in life. It is vital to opening doors of opportunity for every child. The question that is pertinent to this issue is this: Should parents decide what education is best for their children or should the government?
The answer to that question differs sharply in the minds of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The Clinton Answer
Hillary Clinton is currently running ads in Florida that proclaim her life-long devotion to the cause of helping children. We are being treated to many unflattering pictures of a young Hillary advocating for the needs of children in the past and even today. Yet when it comes to education, she is more closely aligned with the needs of teachers’ unions.
The real issue is school choice. Hillary says she favors school choice – but only within the existing public school system. She says, “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system – not outside of it.” She has attacked charter schools, repeating the arguments of the teachers’ union that “they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s situation.”
In other words, according to Hillary, if you don’t have an acceptable option within the public schools, you’re out of luck. This is a position that puts the needs of the teachers’ unions ahead of the needs of the child. Teachers’ unions do not look out for the children; they look out for what’s best for them. Albert Shanker, the first teachers’ union leader, famously quipped, “When children start paying union dues, then I’ll start representing the interests of the children.”
Teachers’ unions insist on teacher tenure and salaries based strictly on seniority and advanced degrees. They oppose merit pay plans that reward the best teachers and promote them within the system. On the contrary, teachers’ unions protect the worst teachers and discourage the best.
Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, in their new book Armageddon, discuss the metamorphosis of Clinton from children’s advocate in her days as First Lady of Arkansas to teachers’ union shill when she reached the national stage. With the contributions of the teachers’ unions deposited in her campaign war chest, she became in their words, “a compliant tool of the teachers’ unions. There was no daylight between them in their opposition to tenure reform, merit pay, and school choice. She went from a crusading battler for students to a tool of the unions.”
The Trump Answer
Donald Trump strongly backs school choice. He believes every parent should have the right to decide where their children go to school, regardless of their circumstances. Trump says, “Competition is why I’m very much in favor of school choice. Let schools compete for kids. For two decades I’ve been urging politicians to open the school house doors and let parents decide which schools are best for their children.”
This is a winning issue for Trump among minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics. They understand the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty that otherwise chains their children to a life of government dependency. This is also a winning issue with women who frequently are the head of the household in such families.
Charter schools and private schools are the alternatives to public schools. Charter schools can be public, private, or parochial and can be sponsored by private businesses, churches, parent groups, and local government. While quality varies from school to school, charter schools consistently outperform traditional public schools. As a result, they usually have long waiting lists for enrollment.
Morris and McGann report that Indiana has the most fully developed statewide school choice plan. The state provides a $7000 voucher plan for each child that can be used at whichever public or non public school the parents choose. An additional $4000 is provided by local sources. As a result, competition is intense and schools have to measure up to get the money. This means better education for the children and better use of taxpayers’ dollars.
In Nevada, the state Supreme Court recently upheld the state’s revolutionary education savings accounts (ESAs), the nation’s first universal school choice program. According to The Wall Street Journal, ESAs allow parents who withdraw their kids from public schools to use state funds to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, curriculum and school supplies. Each account is funded at 90% to 100% of the average statewide per pupil expenditure. Parents can roll over funds from year to year, and there is no cap on the number of participants.
These states are leading the way in a movement that will undoubtedly gain ground if Donald Trump is elected president. Hillary Clinton may call herself a progressive, but on the issue of school choice she is definitely standing in the way of progress. It’s time we gave our children and our grandchildren the educational opportunities they need to be the best they can be. This is an issue that should cross all party lines and all economic and racial barriers. Our country’s future depends on it.