In the February 14th edition of this paper, opinion columnist Julia Grant took on the noble task of bridging the partisan divide in American politics.
As a political independent, I greatly appreciated her intent. However, she used a rather creative example to illustrate her point: the issue of “school choice” which, in her telling, is a noble policy beloved by Republicans yet hypocritically rejected by partisan Democrats.
If only this were the case.
In reality, top Senate Democrats like Cory Booker have extensively pushed for “school choice” (a marketing term used to describe the privatization of the public education system in favor of for-profit charter schools and a private voucher system). Grant cites high-minded ideals about school choice “level[ing] the playing field for underprivileged children.”
In fact, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project has found that charter schools are even more likely to be racially segregated than our already highly segregated public schools. School voucher programs would be especially risky in Mississippi, where it would enable public funding be used to send children to the numerous “segregation academies” throughout our state.
Despite the millions pumped into pro-charter school advocacy by the likes of Bill Gates and the Koch brothers, these schools have been consistently surrounded by scandal and responsible for driving down teacher’s wages and instruction quality through non-union hiring practices.
An education system run for-profit is not the bipartisan solution America needs. Instead, we need a massive nationwide investment in public education that embraces teachers and their unions, disavows Bush and Obama’s testing-centered education policy, and de-links education funding from local property taxes.
In short: the real bipartisan solution should be to fix our education system, not sell it off wholesale to for-profit corporations.