Education issues could be key in the presidential race.
By Larry Sand
September 1, 2020
While government-run schooling has been the choice for a great majority of parents in recent times, change is on the horizon. The National Home Education Research Institute reports that 23 percent of parents who did not homeschool before the Covid-19 invasion indicated that they are now “very likely” to do so full or part time, and another 35 percent said they were “somewhat likely” to do so. Also, according to new Gallup poll, attendance in public schools has declined 7 percent in 2020 to 76 percent of k-12 children in the U.S. The same poll found that the number of parents who say they are going to homeschool has doubled this year to 10 percent.
The most apparent reason for the rise in homeschooling has been the shuttering of schools throughout the country, largely via the strident efforts of the teachers unions. As such, it is hardly surprising that a new Rasmussen poll shows that just 39 percent of American adults think it’s a good thing that teachers belong to unions. Another black eye for government-run schools and their leftist-run unions is that curricula now often includes radical components like sexualizing preschoolers, teaching that America is racist to its core, and that capitalism is oppressive.
As schooling issues have become more prevalent in the media, more and more parents are realizing the importance of politics in education. The latest PDK poll reveals that 60 percent of respondents and 70 percent of parents said public education plays an important role in how they will vote in November. Eight out of ten Black respondents said that the president’s performance on education is key to their vote, as did seven in ten Latinos. And the two presidential candidates could not be further apart on education issues.
Rick Hess, education policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, does a good job of laying out what could happen if the Democrats prevail in November. Hess notes that, if elected, Joe Biden would triple Title I funding, make community college tuition-free and forgive all “tuition-related” student debt. He would also end the D.C. voucher program and kill charter school growth. And just in case the teachers unions weren’t already salivating, Biden says he wants to “ban state laws prohibiting unions from collecting dues or comparable payments from all workers who benefit from union representation that unions are legally obligated to provide.”
In other words, Biden wants to throw piles of taxpayer money into a damaged education system and prevent parents from escaping it. (His forced-dues idea is most interesting because he would have to overturn the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, the 2018 ruling which stipulated that teachers and other public employees did not have to pay a union as a condition of employment. As for Biden’s “…legally obligated to provide” comment, perhaps he doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the competition-phobic unions insist on exclusivity; it is not foisted on them.)
Crossing the aisle, we find the Republicans have a much simpler education plan, and one that many parents and taxpayers will find appealing. In his speech at the Republican National Convention last week, President Trump said, “In a second term, I will expand charter schools and provide school choice to every family in America.”
While federal intervention in education matters rarely works out well, the impetus behind the statement is important. Parents need choices. Period. And increasing numbers of voters are coming around. A recent poll commissioned by the American Federation for Children found that most voters, including 82 percent of Latinos and 68 percent of Blacks, support using taxpayer dollars to send their children to a school – public or private – that “best serves their needs.” The AFC survey results are quite similar to others on the subject.
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott makes the case for parental choice very simply. “I don’t care if it’s a public, private, charter, virtual, or a home school. When a parent has a choice, a kid has a better chance.”
Needless to say, the union faithful are not happy with the Republican position on choice. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten countered with a tweet, claiming that being pro-choice “is their way pushing to defund public ed.”
The proper response to Weingarten is, “Monopolies never work. Sorry, but traditional public schools will have to earn the money they receive from taxpayers by doing a better job than private schools.”
If enough poor, minority and working class parents are fed up with the status quo, the Republican education message might just be enough to sway them to vote for Trump, and the children and taxpayers of America would be the ultimate victors.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.