Opinion

School Choice: Trump v. Biden

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Posted: Jun 27, 2020 12:01 PM
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School Choice: Trump v. Biden

Source: (AP Photo/John Locher)

On January 22, 2020, Joe Biden tweeted: “When we divert public funds to private schools, we undermine the entire public education system. We’ve got to prioritize investing in our public schools, so every kid in America gets a fair shot. That’s why I oppose vouchers.”

On June 16, 2020, President Trump said, “We’re fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights of all time in this country … Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade, and probably beyond, because all children have to have access to quality education.”

“A child’s ZIP Code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening. So we’re very, very strong on school choice,” Trump continued.

Could the two candidates be further apart on the crucial topic of school choice? I think not.

So, where does the American public stand on this huge issue? Well, according to a plethora of polling, Americans of all races, political persuasions, and socio-economic status overwhelmingly support school choice.

In other words, on the monumental subject of school choice, President Trump is right in line with mainstream America, while Joe Biden teeters on the fringe. Of course, the media remains silent as a mime on this.

Yet, despite the lack of media attention on this critical issue, the two candidates hold polar opposite views that should receive scrutiny. Why? Because the utter lack of school choice for most American families is producing dire consequences.

For instance, in Baltimore, 33 percent of the city’s public high schools (13 in total) had zero students test proficient in math, according to 2017 testing data. And that is not the exception.

Unfortunately, our public schools are completely failing in their objective of educating students to read, write, perform basic arithmetic, comprehend simple science, or understand American history and civics. Trust me, I would know. I taught in a few public high schools for five years and I was completely shocked at how little attention was paid to the most essential elements of education.

On the other hand, schools outside of the public education leviathan are thriving. And Americans are desperate to enroll in these non-public schools. Yet, the vast majority of Americans do not have the means to enroll their children in high-performing charter, private, or parochial schools.

As things stand, the public school monopoly reigns supreme, even though it is doing a pitiful job of educating millions of American students. Yet, instead of pointing out the blatantly obvious fact that the public school system is failing miserably, career politicians like Joe Biden simply think the answer is more money to public schools.

Are Joe Biden and his public-education-supporting-ilk unaware of the terrible academic results public schools have produced for decades? Probably not. Is he not familiar with the dangerous and violent circumstances that millions of public school students experience every day while attending rundown schools? Highly unlikely.

And Biden’s grand plan to solve the public school problem with more money is unlikely to make any difference. After all, American public schools are receiving more money than ever. 

For instance, according to The Maryland Public Policy Institute, “Baltimore schools spend $17,493 per pupil. That is the third-highest per-pupil spending rate of any school district in Maryland. It’s unclear how, by any measure, this qualifies as underfunded. Regardless, the commission wants to spend another $823 million a year in Baltimore schools.”

In other words, Biden’s call for more funding is nothing more than doubling-down on a total failure. Even worse, most of the money that is constantly shoveled into ill-performing public schools actually funds the ever-growing education bureaucracy, not students.

On the other end of the education spectrum sits President Trump. Since his election in 2016, Trump has championed school choice. Although the president of the United States does not have the power to single-handedly dictate education policy (that, for the time being, is mostly developed at the state and local levels), the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Trump’s approach. 

In a few months, Americans will head to the polls. Data show many Americans are single-issue voters, meaning they base their vote primarily (if not exclusively) on one main issue. For those single-issue voters who hold education in high esteem, the choice is simple: Trump supports education choice, Biden supports public school unions and bureaucrats.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.