Two entirely different visions for America are on the ballot this November, espoused by two candidates who share not a single floor tile of common ground on the issues. As President Trump firmly embraces less government activism and a thriving free market, Joe Biden has surrendered to the far left wing of his party after decades as a left-leaning moderate. In this third quest for the presidency, Joe has shown just how malleable his principles have become.
Few issues, however, highlight Biden’s unparalleled duplicity so much as school choice, an idea he once passionately embraced as critical to helping the poor - minorities especially - escape the cycle of poverty and government dependency. In 1997, Biden pleaded from the well of the Senate, “Where the public schools are abysmal or dysfunctional or not working and where most of the children have no way out, it is legitimate to ask what would happen to the public schools with increased competition from private schools. Is it not possible that giving poor kids a way out will force the public schools to improve…”
Today Biden is the Democrat presidential nominee and therefore a loyal puppet of the powerful National Education Association (NEA) teachers union that calls the party’s shots on education. Despite the overwhelming popularity of school choice, including its 78 percent support among black voters, Biden now opposes vouchers, charter schools, or any reform that would give poor kids “a way out.”
Biden’s lockdown of educational opportunities is a deliberate confrontation with the efforts of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who have fought to expand school choice through federal grants, scholarship programs, and legislation. DeVos refers to school choice as a “matter of justice” and backs that up by advocating compassionate policies to rescue the victims of the education establishment’s massive failures. It is a position that no fair person could oppose; but no one claims the NEA or Democrats are fair. Biden’s children benefited from attending private schools, underscoring the hypocrisy of his position that willfully condemns poor children stuck in dysfunctional classrooms to a bleak future.
Just as troublesome, Biden has adopted his party’s hostile position on choice in higher education as well. For years Democrats and their allies in the elitist education establishment have attempted to hijack government agencies ranging from the IRS to Veterans Administration (VA) to delegitimize and deny accreditation to hundreds of career-oriented, for-profit and not-for-profit colleges that are helping America fill its deficit of skilled workers. Institutions such as ECPI University, Grand Canyon University, the University of Phoenix, Full Sail University, and many other highly valued and successful institutions would be devastated by the Democrats’ legislative and regulatory assault on colleges that don’t fit the traditional four-year mold.
Active duty military personnel and veterans would see their ability to apply GI Bill tuition assistance to the school of their choice greatly restricted. Biden would alter the 90-10 rule that sets the formula for what percentage of federal student aid career-oriented schools can accept. Curtailing a benefit our veterans have earned is not only an egregious slap at our men and women in uniform, but will likely lead to dozens of schools closing while others will have to raise tuition to make up the difference.
Biden has pledged to fire DeVos “day one” in office and reverse the unprecedented work she has accomplished in expanding education options. He would follow the advice of highly-paid, ultra-left education activists Bob Shireman and David Halperin, former Clinton and Obama advisors, who routinely disparage private college education with jaded "research" that never acknowledges the quality and accomplishments of dozens of career-oriented colleges. Shireman and Halperin happily do the dirty work of the entrenched education establishment to promote policies designed to shut down college options, such as through the Gainful Employment Rule (GER). The GER empowers federal bureaucrats to police school degree programs based on arbitrary salaries its students earn, a rule totally inapplicable at traditional four-year state schools or elite Ivy League universities.
Biden’s education reforms would ignore the numerous problems plaguing traditional four-year colleges and universities, such as student debt, admissions scandals, poor graduation rates and tenure, and instead seek new ways to harass career-oriented universities with oppressive rules and regulatory oversight. A Biden administration will do nothing about campus speech codes, growing levels of ideological intolerance, or lack of due process that has turned what should be a time of open-minded exploration for college students into an exercise in oppressive left-wing indoctrination.
Joe Biden frequently jokes that his wife Jill is a teacher, and that he has to answer to her on education policy. But Biden’s plan to kill school choice from grade school through to college is no joke, and no laughing matter. Biden is the candidate of the NEA and its cohorts in the education establishment that seek a complete government monopoly on policy and iron grip on the distribution of education funding. His goal is to stop choice across the board, and end the innovations that threaten the traditional four-year college model. He will take us backwards, and hurt millions of students at every age level in the bargain.
Gerard Scimeca is an attorney and co-founder of CASE, Consmer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.