Give ru­ral ar­eas school choice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Letters To The Editor - ROBERT HOL­LAND

David Sherfinski ac­cu­rately de­scribes shift­ing al­le­giances that might seem frus­trat­ing for school-choice ad­vo­cates, as in­ner-city Democrats in­creas­ingly fa­vor parental choice among a range of pub­licpri­vate op­tions while ru­ral Repub­li­cans, fail­ing to see much ben­e­fit from choice for their far-flung con­stituen­cies, vote to sti­fle promis­ing ini­tia­tives (“In­ner-city Democrats warm to school choice as ru­ral Repub­li­cans balk,” Web, Oct. 6).

It stands to rea­son, how­ever, that th­ese two trends even­tu­ally will merge to bol­ster a uni­fied and po­tent choice move­ment. Two fac­tors will be in play: Hav­ing fi­nally ex­pe­ri­enced the ben­e­fits of ed­u­ca­tional free­dom for their chil­dren, in­ner-city (largely black) par­ents will not want to re­lin­quish their right to choose. That just doesn’t hap­pen. Mean­while, tech­nol­ogy will be a force driv­ing the kind of in­no­va­tion that can ben­e­fit iso­lated ru­ral school dis­tricts par­tic­u­larly.

Specif­i­cally, vir­tual char­ter schools, of­fered as a statewide choice, could bring re­sources to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that greatly ex­pand the range of op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents. Lind­sey Burke of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion has noted, for ex­am­ple, that small ru­ral schools are least likely to of­fer Ad­vanced Place­ment cour­ses for their stu­dents (only about a third do). A vir­tual char­ter school “could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween hun­dreds of high school stu­dents tak­ing AP cal­cu­lus or physics cour­ses, ver­sus hav­ing to be con­tent with what’s avail­able in their small brick-and-mor­tal school.”

In ad­di­tion, it is likely that con­stituents will be let­ting Repub­li­can law­mak­ers know they would like to have ed­u­ca­tional op­tions out­side the purview of gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies and made pos­si­ble by such mech­a­nisms as tax-credit schol­ar­ships, vouch­ers and ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts.

After all, how much longer can ru­ral Repub­li­cans cred­i­bly run for of­fice as ad­vo­cates of a free mar­ket in goods and ser­vices but in­sist on ed­u­ca­tion be­ing an ex­cep­tion?

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