If there was one lesson Democrats should have taken from being swept by the GOP in Virginia's 2021 elections, it's to be very careful what they say about parents, children and schools. After all, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe never recovered from declaring, "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
Texas Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier clearly didn't get the message. Just 10 months after McAuliffe's blunder, Collier has given incumbent Republican Dan Patrick a similar gift as he addressed the Texas Democratic convention.
Lashing out at school voucher programs, which enable parents to use state education funds to attend private schools, Collier said:
“If Dan Patrick gets another term, he's already told us he's coming after your school and he's coming after your teacher. He wants to privatize and profitize our public schools. As lieutenant governor, I will lead the legislature to amend our constitution to ban forever private school vouchers. You know why? Because vouchers are for vultures!"
If you need more proof that Collier's campaign is utterly tone-deaf, note that we became aware of his gaffe because his campaign eagerly publicized it on Twitter:
As Lt. Governor, I will lead the legislature to amend our constitution to ban forever private school vouchers.— Mike Collier (@CollierForTexas) July 21, 2022
Because vouchers are for vultures. pic.twitter.com/GND2Pp5EzS
Collier may have intended to sling that insult at voucher-promoting politicians -- and maybe at people engaged in the apparently evil practice of running private schools -- but the universal nature of his declaration ended up vilifying the poor and middle class families who stand to gain the most from school choice programs.
Consider that just a quarter of Texas eighth-graders are proficient in reading, with the percentages dropping to just 11% for blacks and 19% for Latinos.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Southern Democrat speak so openly and unapologetically about blocking the advancement of black and brown people, the biggest beneficiaries of educational equality. Interesting to see a Dixiecrat in 2022 https://t.co/dUH06VDLQ6— Darvio Morrow (@DTheKingpin) July 22, 2022
Voucher proponents across the country have been energized by a recent major success in Arizona, where eligibility for the state's Empowerment Scholarship Account program was extended to every kindergartener through twelfth-grader.
Parents will be free to use about $7,000 a year for home schooling, private schools, online learning and tutoring instead of attending a public school. Alternatively, Arizona families can take their pick of public schools, subject only to available classroom space.
Arizona's school choice program is now the broadest one in the country, and it was achieved despite Republicans only holding single-vote majorities in both chambers. Arizona's example is increasing pressure on politicians in other states -- and especially red states like Texas -- to follow Arizona's lead. Many are racing to get out in front of the wave, including Texas Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott: "Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school, or private school with state funding following the student." pic.twitter.com/pUAeLrYOVh— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) July 18, 2022
The wave is drawing pressure from parents who, prompted by school pandemic policy controversies, were driven to scrutinize their schools like never before. Meanwhile, remote teaching gave many parents a whole new window on day to day instruction. Many didn't like what they saw.
Between the devastating learning losses inflicted by Covid shutdowns and disturbing woke educational trends, families of various political persuasions are racing for the exits. According to a national survey reported in The New York Times, public schools have lost nearly 1.3 million students since the start of the pandemic.
Public school systems are sinking, but Democratic politicians are determined to keep children trapped inside them...except for those whose parents can afford private alternatives and elect to use them. Among the well-off parents who choose private schools, you'll find plenty of Democratic school-choice opponents, like Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.