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The can’t-miss American school choice moment in the midterm elections

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Education policy has changed so much, so rapidly in the age of COVID-19 that universal school choice—an unattainable ideal for generations of reformers—has suddenly become a middle ground for most Americans.

The choice of universal education should be a ripe campaign issue for state candidates this fall and the top policy priority for newly elected state legislatures in the new year. The motto is very simple: trust the parents, not the bureaucrats; and fund students, not systems.

It’s not just a slogan. In Arizona, it is now politics. Thanks to legislation Governor Doug Ducey signed this summer, starting now, instead of sending dollars to school districts, every student in the state will receive $7,000 in a college savings account to use in any school or for any educational approach, every year, from kindergarten to high school.

There’s no reason other states, Texas in particular, shouldn’t follow suit. The Lone Star State is surrounded by neighbors who have embraced the education choice: Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. And let’s be frank: Due to its size and influence, universal school choice in Texas would create even greater momentum for the passage of similar legislation in other states.

Governor Greg Abbott and the 88th Texas Legislature are uniquely positioned to secure the mandate to enact statewide universal education choice, and then lead a state-by-state movement to empower parents and ESAs the new norm for nationwide reform.

And not far away in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to support the expansion of the state’s scholarship, bond and tax credit programs, which enable nearly 200,000 students choose a learning environment suited to their needs.

A February poll by RealClear Opinion Research found that 72% of Americans (including 68% of Democrats) support the school choice, while only 18% oppose it. A majority of Americans now rate public schools as unsatisfactory, and some 1.2 million schoolchildren have transferred from them since the start of the pandemic. Arizona, a purple state with two Democratic senators and a blue congressional delegation, just created the nation’s first universal school choice program: a college savings account option open to every family in Arizona. .

These trends may surprise political insiders who accept the media’s framing of school choice as a controversial idea. But they shouldn’t. It’s not just that most Americans support school choice; between private and magnetic schools, charters, home schooling, and parents who have chosen their residence for the school district, most American families are already exercising some sort of school choice.

This school-choice moment is the silver lining of the left’s disastrous mismanagement of American schools since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers’ unions, progressive elected officials and media elites who have long posed as defenders of public education are now brazenly debasing it: closing schools, masking and indoctrinating students in defiance of scientific facts and historical, conspiracy against parental authority, even covering up the crimes and throwing the FBI on the moms and dads who opposed it.

And just so no one forgets, American K-12 schools were in crisis before COVID-19. The vast majority of students have below-grade proficiency in reading, writing, civics, history, and math. This was the case before the pandemic, and it continues today. Boys, in particular, have fallen so far behind that American classrooms are no longer equal opportunity environments.

The “Great Awokening” and COVID acting school closures have only extended racist, homophobic, anti-family sociopathy and anti-science superstition onto an already dysfunctional system in desperate need of reform.

The good news is, whatever the far left of the educational establishment has been since 2020 — “Math is racist! Kindergartners are trans! Parents are idiots! America is evil! – the Overton window moved just as far in the opposite direction.

In education today, it is the status quo that is harmful and divisive; school choice is the non-partisan compromise.

The Conservatives have never had such an opportunity on the issue of education before. Come to think of it, the Conservatives have never had such an opportunity on any issue, ever.

We have to seize it.

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Nor is there any reason for conservative reformers to aim lower. We both support measures to protect students from racist ideas of critical race theory in the classroom, to protect girls’ sports, etc. But curators shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees.

Universal education choice would do more to combat woke indoctrination and student endangerment than all of these targeted reforms put together.

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It’s not often that politics and politics align so well, especially for conservatives. But right now, the question Americans are asking is not whether parental choice in education is a good idea, but rather how it should be implemented.

Answering that question is how the right can craft a successful and popular governance agenda for years to come.

Brooke Rollins is President and CEO of America First Policy Institute.

Greg Sindelar is CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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