To Survive, Republicans Must Embrace School Vouchers
There is at least one major issue that Republicans can embrace to change their electoral future. School choice, the so-called school voucher system, is the perfect vehicle for Republicans to finally do something that might persuade blacks, Hispanics, and single mothers to abandon the Democratic Party plantation in significant numbers in the 2014 election.
If Republicans rally strongly behind the voucher program and campaign strongly for it, even against the formidable opposition of the teachers unions, they can win even more states at the statehouse level and perhaps gain seats in both the House and Senate in 2014.
What risk would the GOP face, after all? Will they lose votes in 2014 from among teachers union members? The unions are so solidly in the pocket of Democrats that if elections were decided by only the teachers, every Republican could save themselves a lot of heartache (or heartburn) by retiring and going home.
The same reality applies to fears of losing campaign funds from the teacher unions. When was the last time that teachers gave any more than a token contribution to anyone in the Republican Party?
So after writing off support from the teacher unions and the education establishment, exactly what must Republicans or a coalition of Tea Party/Conservative/Libertarian activists (TPCL) offer to voters?
The first thing is the improvement in the quality of the education their kids will receive. Republicans have to hammer at the fact that although the amount of tax money spent on education at the local, state, and federal levels has exploded exponentially, actual student performance has remained relatively flat. They have to keep asking the voters "So what are you getting for all the money they take out of your wallet?"
Republicans must keep attacking the increasing cost of public education and the lack of benefits obtained. They also must reiterate that without improvements in the results of our educational system, everyone's kids will only have to master a single question to get a job -- "Do you want fries with that?"
Republicans need to remind voters that although the Democrats constantly harp about being the political party in favor of a woman's right to choose, mothers are denied any choice about where and how their children will be educated, and what they will be taught.
Republicans should also question the racist aspects of allowing the government to maintain an iron grip on an education monopoly.
The worst performing schools are located in the inner cities. And which racial groups populate the inner cities? The answer is primarily African-Americans, Hispanics and recent immigrants. The other significant Democrat leaning demographic that should be concerned with this question would be single mothers.
Questions that voters need to consider include:
• What is the percentage of inner city students that even finish high school?
• How many inner city students go on to college?
• How many scholarships are awarded to kids that have survived being condemned to the uncaring, assembly-line educations that the teachers unions keep asking parents (read taxpayers) to fund at higher and higher levels to support their well above average salaries, benefits and pensions?
Taxpayers who do not have kids languishing in those inner city schools must be made aware that a voucher system will not cost more than the current system in total. It is a way to allow parents, who are the people most involved in the education of their children, a choice of how their kids are educated. The total school tax bills won't immediately change, but where the money will be spent and where it will be spent will be determined by parents, not politicians or teachers union leadership.
Republicans must hammer away constantly that this is an idea opposed by progressive ideologues, Democrats, and teachers unions. Branding school vouchers as a Republican initiative is of prime importance. Once the idea takes hold and support builds, does any rational person believe that the Democrats won't try to steal the idea and claim that it has really their plan all along?
This is an election issue that:
a) wouldn't increase taxes for education
b) empowers single mothers, as well as lower income and minority parents, with a better option for educating their kids
c) would appeal to traditionally Democratic demographic groups within the inner cities where the backbone of support for Democrats is found
d) would actually result in our kids being better prepared to enter the work force or continue on to college.
The down side? Gee, the teachers won't like it. Well, cry me a river over that concern.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran and an independent voter. Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com/, or he can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org