Saturday, July 28, 2012

How the Right is Defining the Terms of Debate on Education

In How Democrats are Changing Course on School Choice, Tom Byrne, a former New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman, had this to say:

It used to be that school choice was taboo among Democrats. But many key party members have come to see school choice as a civil rights issue. If rich white kids can go to the school that best fits them, why can’t we provide the same opportunity to poor minority kids?

This is progress in the sense that the abstract concept "school choice" continues to gain traction in the culture.  Of course, freedom is not merely about government-approved choice. And now that the concept of school choice accepted, the door is open to moving the ball forward toward more and more freedom in education. I left the following comments:

zemack June 15, 2012 at 11:02AM

What about the vast majority of children between “rich white kids” and “poor minority kids?” No school—even the “best” of the public schools—is good for every child or satisfy every parent. So, how about tax credit-based school choice for everyone? Christie is already on record supporting the concept.

Give every taxpayer—corporations and individuals, with or without school-age children—optional education tax exemptions, so anyone can sponsor the education of any child anywhere in NJ, limited to the per-child cost of public schools. This would make private alternatives to government schools much more affordable for most families, and open the door to a flood of philanthropic money for the rest—including the “poor minority children” left waiting in the public system for improvements that never come. Then, let educators innovate and compete and parents decide. I proposed one such plan here [] and a bill along these lines was once introduced into the NY State legislature [].

So long as the private schools can keep their autonomy by keeping them free from regulation, leaving private schools truly private, it would be the moral thing to do. Not only is this a civil rights issue, but more importantly, it is a matter of inalienable individual rights. On what basis is it fair to deny any parent or child the choice?

We arrived at the degree of statism we currently have in America by allowing the Left to define the terms of debate. The rest was a logical step-by-step regression to more and more government control. Reversing that process is the path to a fully free market. School Choice is a good concrete example of how that can happen. It is we who are defining the terms.

Not so long ago, school choice was ridiculed. Now, it's "mainstream." But it's important to understand that school choice is a start--a tactical battlefield win--not victory. To capitalize on our momentum, we must define school choice not as an end in itself, as conservatives do, but as a means to a fully free market in education. Just as the Left always wraps its politics in altruist/collectivist clothing, we on the Right must always connect our politics to our egoist/individualist fundamentals. That is how to pave the way toward the next progressive step toward full freedom.

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