Monday, August 6, 2012
Kevin P. Chavous on Why Democrats Must Support School Choice
Last month on the Washington Post’s “The Answer Sheet” Blog, guest blogger Jeff Bryant argued why Democrats should not support any form of educational options. Check out the response from AFC Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. Councilman and a lifelong Democrat, on why Democrats must put partisan politics aside and support school choice:
Jeff Bryant’s July 18 piece on Valerie Strauss’ “The Answer Sheet” blog lets blind partisanship get in the way of an accurate characterization of school choice programs across the country. As a Democrat, I full-heartedly support school choice in every form—from strong traditional public schools to charter schools to voucher programs—because these options shift our focus from an antiquated, overly-bureaucratized one-size-fits-all system that is sadly failing millions of disadvantaged children to those who know their children best—parents. Your failure to think critically is apparent in your change-averse ideology that prizes the status quo over proven measures that will help kids.
In a political climate where bipartisanship is growing increasingly rare, school choice breaks the mold, having earned the backing of Republicans and Democrats in places like Louisiana, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, and right here in the nation’s capital. The reason, which Mr. Bryant fails to acknowledge, is simple: for many lawmakers, the future of our country’s next generation is far more important that scoring political points.
The assumption that poor families are misinformed is simply untrue, and it is that notion—one emphasizing system-wide decision-making over the best judgment of parents—that accounts for a great deal of the achievement gap that plagues our country’s educational performance. It’s why when we put power pack into the hands of parents, as was done here in D.C., voucher students graduate at a rate of 91 percent—more than 30 percentage points higher than students in D.C. Public Schools. And an evaluation of the Milwaukee voucher program also found a higher graduation rates and a trend that participating students were more likely to enroll and continue in four-year universities than their public school counterparts.
It’s why when the opportunity for choice arises, parents respond in droves. More than 17,000 students are on waiting lists for public charter schools here in D.C. and more than 10,000 low-income families have applied for the voucher program since it was created in 2004.
So yes, Mr. Bryant, I am a Democrat who proudly favors school choice, and there is nothing meek about my support. After all, I’m on the side of the parents, and it’s they—not you—who really know what’s best for their kids.
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG