Wednesday, July 31, 2013
While Eric Cantor may have backed away from unadulterated school choice, Rand Paul is ramping up his calls. Tuesday he hosted four fellow Republican senators — Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — at a school choice forum to highlight his proposal to expand school choice in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. This was part of a string of other similar forums he has held recently.
“I’m talking about opening up all of the lines, so that kids can go to public, to private, wherever,” said Paul. “Some of these schools are absolutely pitiful, absolutely. What I’m really proposing is helping these kids get out from the grind. . . . The people being hurt aren’t the rich white kids in the suburbs. It’s poor black and brown kids in the inner city.”
When asked about findings that voucher programs have not resulted in gains for poor kids but have cost the government enormous sums of money, Paul objected that this was the wrong question, arguing “It’s our money. We’re getting back some of the money taken from us. I think when you have choice, people choose the better product. I think it’s presumptuous of anyone to question parental authority.” He similarly rejected less than exemplary findings by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes about charter schools as "lies and lies. . . People can manipulate statistics all they want. Have you seen the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’?”
As noted in my earlier post on Cantor, the Republican Party seems to have backed away from Paul's position. Presumably, enough Republicans believe in statistics and question the ramifications of giving the education budget to individuals with no strings attached that the party is unwilling to support Paul. The interesting aspect of Paul's continued focus on this issue, however, is that his purpose may be to court minority voters rather than to change NCLB. Recall his recent visit to Howard University. Somehow, I doubt that minorities would vote for Paul simply because he supports choice. Also, when one digs a little deeper, it is not clear that he supports minorities communities. Rather, he supports privatization and libertarian principles, which minorities can see through if they are not being seriously respected. After all, implicit in Paul's current statements is the notion that he has no interest in improving minority schools or segregation. He just wants choice.
While libertarian interests can intersect with minority community interests, James Foreman's article, The Rise and Fall of School Vouchers: A Story of Religion, Race, and Politicals, 54 UCLA L. Rev. 547 (2007), analyzed how a coalition of this sort fell appart in the late 1990s and early 2000s.