February 1 2010

An Overlooked Lesson from the Off-Year Elections

Vicki E. Alger

Political commentators are still theorizing about the full implications of Sen. Scott Brown's (R-MA) Senate election-particularly in light of the gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey last November (see here, here, and here, for instance). Thus far they have focused primarily on the health-care debate; however, these elections underscore the importance of putting parents-not politicians-in charge of children's education.

First, most Americans grasp that a government takeover of health care would work about as well as the current monopoly over elementary and secondary education-which has an 18 percent public approval rating, the lowest since 1981 according to one recent survey.

Second, voters want a little less talk and a lot more action when it comes to accessing high-quality education for their children. Elected officials and candidates of all political persuasions had better be prepared to offer voters meaningful education options instead of empty promises about programs funded with more dollars than sense. (See here, here, and here).

That's precisely what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appear to be doing. Both are vocal advocates of parental choice in education who've appointed strong supporters to head their states' education departments. Likewise, Sen. Brown supports school choice, including vouchers and charter schools. "I've always felt that school choice is important, whether it's ...charter schools, traditional schools, vouchers, and private schools," says Sen. Brown. "Children and parents should have a choice in where they go to school."

Red State or Blue, there is growing bi-partisan support for parental choice in education, including:

Arizona, D.C., Idaho , Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

This is a real, but overlooked, lesson behind the off-year elections for those who'd seek, or keep, elected office.

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