Vouchers for Democrats

What’s the right education policy for a Democrat running for president? It’s not enough to call for more money for schools, writes Mark Schmitt of Decembrist. He suggests supporting vouchers as a way to catalyze change in public schools. I’d certainly admire the guts of any Democrat who took Schmitt’s advice.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And you would get chance to admire his guts – they would be splayed across the convention floor by the NEA lobby and their pets.

  2. Jack Tanner says:

    Never’s a long time, but I’m pretty sure you can say ‘Never gonna happen’ in this case.

  3. jeff wright says:

    Well, a guy’s got to somehow win this Spring, so he’s going to have to differentiate himself from Dean and hope he can get a larger turnout in the primaries. Maybe vouchers wouldn’t work, but Dean isn’t going to be stopped by someone who parrots his message. Vouchers would be an especially good strategy for the general election and a way of shaking Bush’s self-anointed stance as the “education president.”

    What’s the NEA going to do, stump for Bush? No, they’ll fall right into line with whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be, vouchers or not.

  4. Wacky Hermit says:

    Walter E. Wallis—- ROFLOL!!!!!! That was so witty!!!

  5. PJ/Maryland says:

    As Jeff says, a candidate has to win in the primaries first. I can’t see a rational Democrat coming out even slightly in favor of vouchers in the primaries, because the NEA would then make every effort to kill him/her off (in a electoral sense!).

    I haven’t seen much discussion of how the black primary vote is expected to go; a candidate coming out for vouchers would probably pick up a lot of black (and Latino) votes, but my impression is that those votes are not a big factor in most states’ primaries. And with the NEA gunning for him (or her), vouchers are a losing primary strategy IMO.

    As Schmitt says in his post, there’s no way Dean or Gephardt could play up vouchers, since both have heavy union endorsement. In the unlikely event of another Democrat winning the nomination, announcing a pro-voucher stance seems to me a winning strategy. Even as wimpy a proposal as Schmitt suggests, “…as president, I will encourage a broader experiment with school vouchers, along with the most rigorous evaluation possible before we take it one step further,” would freak out the NEA, but it would certainly shore up the black vote and might attract quite a few swing voters. My impression is that suburbanites don’t feel strongly about vouchers, but this stance would help with urban voters, and might attract votes simply because it shows the candidate is open-minded.

    (Schmitt doesn’t explain how a “rigorous evaluation” would be handled; elsewhere in his article, he complains about NCLB’s “…over-emphasis on testing, [and]the incentives it creates to play Houston accounting with the numbers”.)

    (It occurs to me that this hypothetical candidate might get the NEA on-board by explaining that the rigorous evaluation means that any private school accepting the experimental vouchers would have to follow all public school regulations, which would pretty much guarantee a failed experiment, IMO.)