The Benefits of School Choice and the Risks in the November Elections

from Liberty Unyielding

The debate over school choice has tended to focus on whether students learn more as a result. But learning improvements from school choice are probably smaller than improvements in other dimensions, such as civic participation, law abidingness, and family stability later in life. Jason Bedrick of The Heritage Foundation notes that “School-choice policies even appear to foster law-abidingness and self-governance. A study by @P_Diddy Wolf & @Corey_DeAngelis found that students participating in Milwaukee’s school choice program saw significant reductions in criminal convictions & paternity suits.” Perhaps private schools have the ability to instill values in ways that the public schools do not.

“When it comes to civic knowledge and skills, 10 studies find a private-school advantage, six find no difference, and none find a government-school advantage,” Bedrick points out. “Some claim government schools are where people of all different backgrounds learn to live and work together. Yet, in the research on political tolerance—a virtue our nation needs direly today—show a 13-1 advantage for school choice over government schooling.”

In the public schools, “Teaching students a historically accurate understanding of our nation’s founding and the role of government is not a priority. Instead, instructional content too often centers on social justice, ethnic studies, and Marxist-inspired Critical Race Theory,” Bedrick says.

Since private schools spend less per student on average than the public schools, school choice also has the potential to save taxpayers a lot of money over the long run.

Bedrick is right about the increasingly left-wing slant of many suburban school systems. Virginia’s largest county — Fairfax County — was once GOP-leaning. But today, it is staunchly progressive, and all of its school board members are Democrats. The Fairfax County Public Schools have encouraged teachers to apply critical race theory. The Washington Times reported that a “slide presentation” in 2021 “instructed social studies teachers in Fairfax County Public Schools that ‘critical race theory is a frame’ for their work.”

In neighboring Arlington County, schools have given books by critical race theorists such as Ibram Kendi to students. Arlington distributed hundreds of copies of Ibram Kendi’s book Stamped to students at Wakefield High School. The book contains many errors and celebrates a Marxist anti-Semite. It also peddles conspiracy theories and is dismissive about Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass. At Arlington’s Washington-Liberty High School, most students in 9th grade English were assigned to read either Stamped or a much longer book that would require more work to read. Virtually all students chose to read Stamped as a result.

The Loudoun County, VA public schools paid a contractor to train their staff in critical race theory, giving it $3,125 to conduct “Critical Race Theory Development.”

Under Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam, Virginia’s official “Roadmap to Equity” published by its Department of Education in 2020 thanked critical race theorist “Dr. Ibram X. Kendi” in its acknowledgments section, as having “informed the development of the EdEquityVA Framework.” Kendi says he was “inspired by critical race theory,” and that he cannot “imagine a pathway to” his teachings “that does not engage CRT.” In 2015, under Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), Virginia’s Department of Education instructed public schools to “embrace critical race theory” in order to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems.”

Virginia holds important legislative elections this fall. Many of those legislative races are very close, and could be decided by just a few votes. (In 2017, one legislative race was decided by a coin toss after the Republican and Democrat both got the same number of votes. The Republican win in that race gave Republicans control of the House of Delegates by a narrow 51-to-49 margin).

This year, moderate and mainstream liberal Democrats were purged in Democratic primaries in some safe Democratic seats, so Virginia’s legislature is likely to be further to the left after the election than it was before the election. Currently, Republicans control the House of Delegates, and Democrats control the state Senate, but some radical bills could not pass the state Senate because of opposition from moderate Democrats like Lynwood Lewis and Chap Petersen, who will no longer be in the legislature next year — Petersen was unseated by a leftist in the primary because he opposed school closings, lockdowns, and some left-wing policies that most Democratic legislators supported. The leftist who unseated him in the primary will now easily win the general election, according to political analysts like Chaz Nuttycombe, who rates that district a safe Democratic seat. There are now no moderate Democrats left in the Virginia legislature.

In Virginia, the legislature picks judges, so if Democrats take control of the legislature, they can appoint judges who are soft-on-crime, or judges who order the state to spend more money on various progressive causes, at taxpayer expense. State judges could order such spending using vague language in the state Constitution, which contains some expansive mandates, and was drafted under the oversight of a Democratic law professor. Progressive state supreme courts have often ordered legislatures to spend more money on urban schools or on the public schools in general, or have struck down school choice programs that made it possible for students to escape rotten public schools and attend private schools. State and local governments have often had to raise taxes to pay for more spending ordered by liberal judges.

Nuttycombe says Democrats will probably take control of the legislature, which picks Virginia state judges and has to approve all of the Republican governor’s key appointments. Some other observers predict a tie in the House of Delegates, or think Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to win control of it. But nearly all observers agree with Nuttycombe that Democrats are favored to keep control of the state Senate.

Republished with permission from Liberty Unyielding.