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Missed Opportunity: Education Reform Could’ve Been Winning Issue

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So where was the issue of education reform during the presidential campaign? Republicans didn’t even visit the cities that owe their education salvation to this leadership. While strong reformers who are Republicans continue to run and win elections in states, Republicans at the national level seem not to understand that in supporting educational choice they are supporting a civil right, and that they are the leaders in this support. Republican embrace of individual freedom and liberties over government at the local, state and federal level is an anchor for education reform. And it is repulsive to those who manage and protect the status quo.

Tuesday’s results are not the only wake-up call. Here’s another one: Democrats are working hard to own this issue. Do they deserve the credit? Will they advance the movement? No, but President Obama and his party have vowed to make their party the party of education reform. A recent missive from the Democrats for Education Reform declared Obama “EdReformer in Chief.” He has done little to merit such a title.

We’ve praised Obama’s candor and vocalization of the problems facing American education. We’ve commended the power his Education secretary has wielded to talk about issues that most reformers embrace. But his Administration is conspicuously quiet on the issue of real school choice. And while they talk about ensuring real performance pay for teachers, underneath the talk, the teachers unions are still in charge.

Think about the Democratic Party and this bedrock constituency. Unions once helped those most in need, but today they are keeping those poorest children, those who cannot afford to change zip codes or pay tuition to escape, in failing schools.

President Obama and his majority at the national level continue to oppose attempts to give those students choices. Absent leadership, the nation sits quietly as we shutter hundreds of exceptional Catholic schools that have educated Black and Latino communities, and that educated the Greatest Generation prior to them.

And what were we treated to this election cycle? While Romney’s platform supported parents and students over union prerogatives, neither candidate ran on the issue of ensuring children are educated by whatever means necessary. It almost seems it’s not politically correct to acknowledge that Republicans do something about education reform, while Democrats are forced to negotiate with their supporters, always to reduced effect.

So now what? READ MORE