Izumi: Republicans Should Put School Choice Front and Center

According to Lance T. Izumi, Republicans who are looking at the reasons which may have cost Mitt Romney the election this November are taking the wrong approach. Instead of trying to position themselves as moderates on issues like immigration, they should be trumpeting platform planks that enjoy universal support of people from both sides of the political divide.

In an editorial for the National Review Online, Izumi specifically cites parental choice in education as one big idea that will appeal to all parents — and could serve as a way to pry low-income and minority voters from their support of Democratic candidates. The Democrats' ability to move to the center on school choice is substantially hindered by their dependence on the support of the teachers unions, who are some of the most vocal opponents of education reform. Even when paying lip service to education reform, President Obama is careful never to seem too enthusiastic of education policies that embrace full parental choice, says Izumi.

If publicized, this reluctance could substantially hobble the Democratic coalition, as in many parts of the country voucher programs and charter schools enjoy strong support not only among residents in general, but also among African-Americans in large urban school districts — historically reliable supporters of Democratic politicians.

The Washington, D.C., voucher-scholarship program, for example, has strong support among African-American parents in the nation's capital. Among Latinos, the support for school-choice options is huge and exceeds that of the public in general. According to a May 2012 survey by the American Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), an eye-opening 69 percent of Latino voters in five swing states supported vouchers, versus 57 percent of all voters.

As Julio Fuentes, who heads up HCREO, explains, nowhere do public schools struggle more than in poverty-ridden urban districts. That means that parents' only option for a good education could be a charter school or a voucher grant that would allow them to take their kids out of the public school system altogether.

According to Izumi, voucher programs formed the backbone of Romney's plan for America's education system, yet over the course of the campaign he didn't seem very committed to the idea and spoke about it only rarely and in mostly general terms. However, in the aftermath of the electoral defeat, putting education front and center seems like a no-brainer in light of the importance Latino and other minority voters place on it.

Latino voters are more likely than most to say education is a leading issue for them. Yet, says Mr. Fuentes, "The immigration debate from a national level has taken the spotlight, and this educational crisis that we find ourselves in, especially within our Hispanic community, just seems to never be discussed." Republicans have to show that they care deeply about this critical issue, and there's no better way to demonstrate that they care than by championing popular and beneficial parental-choice programs.

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