As disappointing as the Republicans’ midterm performance was, this year’s election had many silver linings beyond the Democrats’ likely loss of the House of Representatives. Among the most important winners on Tuesday was the issue of school choice, a nonpartisan issue that is really about educational quality.
The victories were big, and they were also widely distributed. Tommy Schultz boasted last week that his organization, the American Federation for Children, had targeted and defeated around 40 incumbent state legislators who opposed school choice. It was a good investment of the group’s $9 million.
In South Carolina, school choice advocate Ellen Weaver was successfully elected as the superintendent of education on an education freedom platform. And the school choice wave wasn’t limited to the state’s rural voters, either. In Charleston, candidates backed by the pro-school choice organization Moms for Liberty secured a majority on the local school board.
The group’s endorsed candidates also won several Florida school board races, and their victories across the country are being tallied up. Meanwhile, all six of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s endorsees won their school board runoff races as well.
That’s just the beginning of the successes that education freedom candidates enjoyed on election night, including successful reelections for every governor supporting school choice. And these victories were preceded by one of the most exciting outcomes — the welcome failure by leftists to repeal Arizona’s school choice law through a ballot referendum.
For decades, liberals have claimed that they can solve the education problem with more funding and fewer students in the classroom. And for decades, they have kept getting more funding and smaller classrooms, and these have not solved anything. Student proficiency has failed to rise despite trillions of dollars being invested over the years throughout the 50 states. As a consequence, on the whole, public schools in the United States are abysmal compared to their international peers.
To make matters worse, reading and math proficiency rates crashed during the pandemic thanks to malingering teachers unions, which resisted a return to classroom instruction long after it was clear that COVID-19 was neither a threat to children nor easily spread by them. In refusing to show up at work, they tried to hide behind politically correct rhetoric. As the Chicago Teachers’ Union put it, “the push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism, and misogyny.”
Lesson: These are not people who can be worked with.
The teachers unions and bureaucrats had their chance. They showed they will not work on the children’s behalf, and so parents and voters are increasingly opening up legal avenues to work around them. It is about time. The best teachers will find a way to participate in this growing movement. And as an added bonus, public schools that are already suffering from plummeting enrollment will feel intense pressure to get their acts together or lose all of their enrollment.
Education freedom, whether it takes the form of public charter schools or vouchers, provides a way to work around those who resist necessary reforms to the education system. School choice has provided access to quality education to families that cannot afford private schools on their own. And public charter schools provide better-quality options to students in failing traditional public schools. Education freedom is the only known solution to the perennially low quality of public education in cities, and it has improved grim situations where it has been introduced widely — as in New Orleans and Washington.
There is one more thing. Although the school choice issue has been around for a long time, the topic has never been more important than it is today, given the Left’s aggressive stepping-up of the culture wars in the pandemic era. Liberals try to downplay the reality, but it is on display everywhere, often because teachers openly admit to it through social media. Radicals are weaponizing education and turning it into a process of deranging children. They are setting aside basic reading and math in order to indoctrinate children in fringe gender ideology and race-essentialism.
Not only do educational alternatives offer children a better opportunity to learn, but they also help parents avoid having their families’ values undermined with their own tax money. That’s a win-win.