Why Romney’s Big School Voucher Idea Is Really Pretty Puny, Time, 6/15/12

posted Jun 15, 2012, 3:07 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Jun 15, 2012, 3:13 AM ]

Three reasons the candidate's school-choice proposal is less provocative than it seems
By ANDREW J. ROTHERHAM | @arotherham | June 14, 2012 | 20

School vouchers are back in the news except that proponents of the idea, including Mitt Romney, are not using the word vouchers any more. For some reason voters don’t like that term, but they do like the idea of giving parents more choices, so vouchers — I mean “scholarships” and “choice” — are a big part of Mr. Romney’s education platform. Listen to him talk about it, and it’s as though we’ve traveled back in time; substitute Bob Dole for Romney and President Clinton for President Obama, and it’s the same debate we had in the 1990s. There is a lot more choice in education now than there was two decades ago: voucher programs for private and parochial schools are well established in cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland, and states like Indiana and Louisiana have enacted them more recently. There are also about half a dozen state programs specifically for students with disabilities. Meanwhile, charter schools continue to proliferate; there are now more than 5,000 of these publicly funded alternatives that students can choose to attend rather than their traditional neighborhood school. But despite all that, this latest round of voucher-pseudonym talk probably won’t amount to much. That’s because school choice is a state-by-state game, not a federal one.

Here are three reasons why Romney’s proposals are less provocative than they seem:

(MORE: The Biggest Myths About School Vouchers)

1. This is about politics, not policy. Romney’s gambit here is politically clever because it forces Obama to be against choice and drives a wedge between parents and the teachers’ unions. In fact, Obama is for charter schools and public-school choice – charter schools are independently run public schools, and public-school choice schemes allow parents to choose from among existing public schools besides the one in their neighborhood – and his administration has used various initiatives to promote them. But voters don’t parse the issue the way wonks do, so it gives Romney an opening. Romney and other Republicans know they’re using a great talking point when they complain that the President is against allowing poor kids in Washington’s beleaguered public schools to attend better schools, especially when Obama’s own kids attend a highly-regarded private school in the city. But as policy, Romney’s blueprint is pretty weak soup because it doesn’t force — or even do much to encourage — states to expand choice. It merely says that federal dollars will defer to states and cities that decide to allow private-school vouchers.

..............well worth going to the Link to read the rest