Make America's Schools Great Again
Rand Paul has introduced legislation to expand school choice. Now is the time.
On rare occasions, the stars align and the opportunity for historic change presents itself. A combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the stunningly self-serving behavior of a long-reliable Democrat constituency has brought us to such a moment — if Republicans are willing to exploit it.
We begin with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). On August 5, he introduced legislation called Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning, a.k.a. the SCHOOL Act. The law proposes that federal government funding of K-12 education, which is currently sent to states and distributed to public school districts, instead follow individual children to the educational opportunities of their choice. Those opportunities include homeschooling, private school, or public school, as well as tuition, curriculum materials, technology, and support for special education.
“If the government schools decide not to meet in person in the fall, I think every parent should have the right to take their tax dollars to the school of their choice,” Paul explained in an op-ed accompanying his bill’s rollout. “The choices would include homeschool, the local public school or another public school that has in-person classes, or a private or parochial school. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would oppose letting parents decide the school of their choice.”
No, it’s not. For decades, the nation’s two largest school unions, The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), in collaboration with a Democrat Party that consistently receives more than 90% of their campaign contributions, have operated a de facto cartel. And right now that cartel has decided that, in many places, getting children back into schools is a nonstarter.
What about the science? Science points toward opening schools, but as many unions and their Democrat enablers have indicated, science is beside the point. In California, United Teachers Los Angeles says reopening schools is contingent upon defunding the police, placing a moratorium on charter schools, and enacting a wealth tax. Ten other teachers unions joined a leftist “Demand Safe Schools” coalition, whose demands include police-free schools, canceling rents and mortgages, and a moratorium on vouchers and standardized testing. The AFT has authorized its members to strike if proper safety measures are not in place, and according to Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, those “safety” measures include broadband access, “a hard commitment from public officials to protect Black and Brown lives,” and universal healthcare.
Such transparently political demands don’t stop there. In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools will offer virtual-only instruction this fall. And until Maryland Governor Larry Hogan intervened, Montgomery County health officials tried to force private and parochial schools to follow suit. “As long as these schools develop safe plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community,” Hogan said in a statement. “This is a decision for schools and parents, not politicians.”
Parents are extremely problematic for the Democrat/Education Union Cartel. Those who formed “education pods” and “micro schools,” consisting of three to six families hiring a tutor to instruct similar-aged children co-quarantined with each other, were accused of ignoring racial and class inequality and weakening public schools, especially in districts with predominantly minority and low-income students.
That those same public schools systems have maintained a black-white achievement gap for nearly 50 years? That the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals a decade of stagnation in mathematics or reading performance? That charter schools overwhelmingly approved by parents routinely outperform the union model?
Nothing to see here; move along.
In Rutherford County, Tennessee, “nothing to see” has been institutionalized. Parents of students who attend Rutherford County Schools must agree not to monitor their child’s online classroom sessions. Subsequent clarification allowed parents to monitor the sessions, but only with the permission of the instructor. Any violation of these conditions could precipitate one’s child being removed for the virtual sessions.
Ostensibly, this was done to protect children’s privacy. But maybe it’s about far more than that. In a series of tweets, Matthew R. Kay, a teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, expressed concern that “helicopter/snowplow” parents who monitor online sessions — with “conservative” parents being his chief concern — might be resistant to “our ‘equity/inclusion’ work” and “honest conversations about gender/sexuality.”
In other words, Kay doesn’t want parents to see him indoctrinating their children with progressive ideology. The blowback caused Kay to privatize his Twitter account, but Matt Walsh gets to the heart of the bigger issue. “A child’s actual parents only come to be viewed as ‘dangerous’ interlopers and intrusive ‘outsiders’ when teachers begin to view themselves and the school system as the true guardians and conservators of the children that are temporarily in their care,” he writes. “And that, ultimately, is the problem with the modern education system.”
Not quite. The most pressing problem by far has been the cartel’s most enduring success: Teaching millions of American students to despise their own nation. And nothing revealed the Democrats’ intention to exploit that success better than their national convention — where speakers spent four straight days telling Americans what a rotten country they live in.
Paul’s SCHOOL Act could deal a serious blow to this contemptible status quo, and if Republicans have an ounce of common sense and political acumen, they would make it the star of the show in prime time during their convention. Paul himself spoke Tuesday night, but a single reference to “the socialists poisoning our schools” doesn’t get it done. Hopefully someone else (perhaps the president himself) can hammer this winning message home.
Regardless, Republicans should keep the bill’s momentum going in the Senate, the House, and the media, pressuring Democrats to make it clear they are either for parents and children — or their union allies.
Moreover, by any means available, they should force a vote on it — before the 2020 election.
For the past three-plus months, Americans have endured an explosion of violence, looting, arson, and attacks on police, as well as the wholesale destruction of historical artifacts precipitated in large part by indoctrinated thugs who comprise the socialist/Marxist entities known as BLM and antifa. That such highly organized mayhem is taking place now — and that Democrats didn’t mention an iota of it during their convention — is a testament to their belief that the contempt for our nation’s culture, institutions, laws, and founding, cultivated in America’s schools, has reached critical mass.
In short, they’re confident that at least 51% of the American electorate is ready to extinguish their own birthright in November.
With any luck, Democrats and their media lapdogs have overreached. But if current trends are allowed to continue, their success is only a matter of time. Thus, there is no better time for Republicans to wholly embrace Paul’s bill. The unions have exposed their naked self-interest, parents with children stuck at home are stressed to the max, and online learning has been a disaster, especially for the minority students Democrats purport to care about most.
Hence, it’s time Republicans embraced fundamental transformation of their own — as in breaking up a contemptible status quo the Democrat/Education Union Cartel has imposed on American parents and students.
Make America’s schools great again, Republicans. Otherwise, you’re no better than Democrats.