Monday, August 29, 2016

Could Trump Push Hillary to the Left on School Choice?

The Donald has declared this “Education Week” as he prepares to formally detail his heretofore amorphous platform. Carolyn Phenicie reports at The 74 that Trump’s advisors “see a potential foothold” with “minority voters who tend to lean Democratic and moderate Republicans who haven’t yet decided if they can ultimately vote Trump” but strongly support school choice.  Hence, the opportunity:  while Clinton has moved right in obeisance to teacher union leaders who see charter schools as a threat to the traditional monopoly, voters of color overwhelming favor access to independent public schools. Trump’s sages believe that this wedge issue could move some school choice supporters into his column.

Are his advisors right? Will this latest iteration of Trump as Mr. School Choice compensate for his 6-feet-under pooling with minority and moderate voters?

Of course not. But to this moderate Democrat, Trump’s fetal focus on K-12 offers hope that Clinton may reconsider her own position as an opponent of choice and distorter of charter school reality.

Here’s my fantasy:  it’s 10:15 pm EDT at Hofstra University on Long Island, seventy-five minutes into the first Trump/Clinton 90-minute debate, and us ardent education wonks are wilting in despair. Not a word on K-12!  Deja vu all over again! Then the moderator (whoever it is -- we’ll find out after Labor Day) says,

"Moving on to a different topic, how would your Administration address school choice? You have thirty seconds. Mr. Trump?"

The Donald, thoroughly briefed on the overwhelming support from people of color for “allowing students and their parents to choose which public schools in the comm the students attend, regardless of where they live,” sticks to his script.

(A little time travel here, with apologies to Education Week’s Andrew Ujifusa who two weeks ago reported on Trump’s education remarks at a speech in West Bend, Wisconsin and from whom I’m plagiarizing part of this.)

Trump: "On education, it is time to have school choice, merit pay for teachers, and to end the tenure policies that hurt good teachers and reward bad teachers. We are going to put students and parents first. And, you know, last month I hired Rob Goad. Terrific stand-up guy, the finest consultant on school choice. Public independent schools, charter schools, whatever you call them, they are going to be YUGE in my Administration. Now, my Democratic opponent, Crooked Hillary, she would rather deny opportunities to millions of young children in order to prop up the education bureaucracy. Obama, did you know that he founded terrible schools, the ones that  my African-American and Mexican friends go to? And Hillary, she’s the second founder. You want more of the same? What do you have to lose?”

Moderator: "Secretary Clinton, on to you."

Clinton: "Well, I certainly welcome the support of our wonderful teachers and union leaders and I do worry about the fiscal impact that public charter schools have on traditional districts. But, upon further study, I applaud proactive parents who seek out the best educational choices for their children. This exercise of choice is quintessentially American, a reverberation of this country’s emphasis on freedom and opportunity. Mr. Moderator, we will tear down this wall that separates low-income children, including those of color, from great public schools. A Clinton Administration will support the careful expansion of public school choice."

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

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