#SchoolChoice: The Best Chance to Expand Conservatism Now

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Over the past 20 years, it has been relatively easy for us on the right to champion #schoolchoice as the civil rights issue of the 21st Century. It has been a consistent messaging, said by everyone repeatedly – from the Trump Administration to the Bush Administration and conservatives in media and policy – as they advance this noble cause.

The impact it has on education permeates to all over aspects of American life, from inclusion in the (public) school-to-prison pipeline to opportunities for career advancements and family stability. The importance education equity has had on American history cannot be overlooked. The power of education led Black underdogs into courts to beat state governments in the fight for racial equality. The value of educated leadership made the difference in economic protests that weakened Woolworths and other businesses that made discrimination and cultural humiliation a way of life, forcing new standards for consumerism and public accommodations. The passion of enlightened firebrands made Black people stop staring at the sidewalk whenever White people passed them on the street, reminding them that, it is indeed self-evident: “…all men are created equal…

Opponents have bemoaned this chorus of advocacy, dog-whistling their commentary of antagonistic obstruction to self-determination in education with examples of racism animus from over 60 years ago. They attempt to equate the trek from today’s failing schools to yesteryear’s fights with Gov. George Wallace and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, among many others. They seek to make education equity about charter school profitability, despite knowing that many states such as Pennsylvania dictate by law that all charter schools are public schools akin to school districts – the same minus districts’ impervious trait of being able to stay open ad infinitum with repeated failures and increased funding.

Those opponents are mad that conservatives are making the continued case that education equity is a prime civil rights issue of the 21st Century because they cringe at the thought that – on this issue – former Presidents Trump and Bush had the moral high ground over the progressive left. Further, they seethe at the fact that, well, it is true: no other issue will have the cultural, economic, employment, and healthcare impacts on the march towards true racial equality like #schoolchoice will – and they hate that Republicans and conservatives understand this.

As well, they also understand very clearly that, while their well-funded union base of teachers, board members, and lobbyists are very much against #schoolchoice out of their own greedy selfishness, the caretakers of millions of students clamoring for better academic options – notably, those adults that mobilize to protest and vote – have increasingly sought more #schoolchoice options, even before the pandemic started. They get that if conservatives are ever going to win over more supporters from Black and Brown communities in America and win back more urban voters regardless of skin color in the years to come, #schoolchoice is the gateway issue that brings these communities into the fold on the political right – as policy influencers and swing voters.

Do we conservatives understand that ourselves?

No other message that we extol as conservatives – smaller taxes, smaller government, a national defense that supports the peace and prevents war, free-market principles, Constitutional law and order –  resonates across the chasm of politics with unifying agreement among everyday Americans quite like #schoolchoice does. Further, no other message has been resilient to the scandals of politicians, policy hypocrisy, and media trends quite like education equity. On taxes, we watched as deficits rose sharply under the last 2 Republican presidents, even as we see that the last 2 Democrats as presidents sought to push through massive spending bills to alleviate economic woes. Our Reaganesque mantra of “peace through strength” has been deemed laughable in many instances, from the premature “Mission Accomplished” of 2003 to Nobel Peace Prize winner’s red line flub that gave Putin an upper hand in Syria, to leaving the fight against ISIS to those that are not staunch allies of our nation.

Our free-market principles went the way of the Smoot-Hawley Act in an antithetical approach to our role as the global economic leader. Interpretations of right and wrong – notably when dealing with the police and authorities – are now filtered through political and cultural lenses that make justice and civil protections a subjective trait, not an unyielding foundation.

Many Americans, especially people of color, do not trust conservatives on most of these issues anymore – in the media, in the conversations among policy-influencers, and in the halls of government – because we have collectively been highly inconsistent in our adherence to these principles. We have moved the goalposts on these items based on who is in office. In some instances, we have proven that, for some, our loyalty to politics means more than our understanding of policies.

And yet, on the issue where we have not done this – #schoolchoice – we remain trusted and aligned with Americans across our divided diversity.

We need to make the most of this.

Conservatives hold the key to civic freedom in the 21st Century in our nation through advancing this policy in a continued and passionate manner. Conservatives hold the key for millions of underserved families to come into the fold of the American Dream and the participation of the global economy as empowered citizens of America through winning on the policies and principles of #schoolchoice. Conservatives have the moral authority and are serving as the force for good in one of the most racially-discriminatory and -corrosive aspects of our society: the re-segregation of our school system and the inequalities that are once again permeating from on high by mostly-White educators whose political stances regularly try to keep Black children away from self-determinative options for their own academic development. The fight for education now is the cousin of the fight that Brown v. Board of Education was decades ago: a push for equal empowerment for American families regardless of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds that allows America to win through the optimal development of hearts and minds. We can make more children proud to be American by helping them learn more about themselves, their communities, and their nation. We can make stronger and better Americans through allowing them empowerment through education equity. Conservatives are uniquely positioned to bust through the barriers blocking millions from realizing this new reality in their families for generations to come.

If we love our Constitution and the spirit of our Declaration of Independence, we share a focus to ensure that #schoolchoice is a right of law, not a luck of the draw. If we love justice, we have a duty to press onward and secure #schoolchoice for every family in our nation – choices that include charter schools, private schools, Catholic schools, homeschooling, and district schools.  If we love America, we have an obligation to continue and win the fight for #schoolchoice for all – as we are the only ones with the moral authority, the policy background, and the constitutional backbone to do so.