Education: A Vote Moving Issue in 2024?

Member Group : Let Freedom Ring, USA

There’s a term in political science called a “vote-moving issue.” That means an issue important enough that a voter could decide whom to support almost entirely based on the candidate’s position on that one issue, even if the candidate in question is a member of the opposite party to the voter’s usual preference. It’s not quite the same thing as a so-called single issue, but it’s close. Immigration and gun rights are good examples of vote-moving issues, especially in the south and southwest. Support for military aid to Ukraine is a vote-moving issue for some. Some libertarian Republicans are opposed to more aid to Ukraine, while some liberal Democrats, typically opposed to massive military spending, are in favor of continuing to fund weapons for Ukraine. Voter ID and Gender issues are other vote-moving issues, especially at the state level. Here’s another issue shaping up to be a vote-moving issue in 2024: parental rights in education, including curriculum content and school choice.

Although education is typically considered a state or local issue, the George Bush 2000 campaign showed that it can be nationalized. The No Child Left Behind proposal was politically helpful to the Presidential ticket even if it later failed to live up to its promise. It was a vote-moving issue then, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s successful race two years ago provided a textbook example of how quickly an earlier issue can be revived and elevated to the very top of those that voters care about. The broad framework of the argument concerns the proper authority over education: should it be parents, or unions?

The Hechinger Report on innovation in education says that groups like National Parents Union aim to carry the torch of underrepresented parents around the country, acting at times as a counterweight to powerful teachers unions. Given the NPU’s stated goal of reflecting the interests of millions of diverse and minority parents across political ideologies, it has the potential to draw support from those who are typically on the left side of the ideological spectrum.

The current teachers strike in Oakland, California shows how stuck in the past teachers’ unions are. The national TV coverage of the strike invariably includes the chant, “Oakland is a union town.” That is tantamount to an admission that the teachers’ strike is really about union power, not teaching.  School choice offers an alternative to union control and a return to the fundamentals of education.

Business Insider reports that The Republican Party is accelerating its push to remake public education, and it’s already becoming a key piece of the 2024 presidential nomination contest. While battles over how classrooms should teach about race and LGBTQ topics have fired up the GOP base, the expansion of school vouchers is taking fresh hold in red states. The vouchers use public dollars to move K-12 students out of public schools and into private, charter, and magnet schools — and in a few cases even offsetting homeschooling costs.

Iowa, Utah, West Virginia, Florida, and Arkansas have moved to make vouchers widely available. North DakotaTexasOhioVirginia, and Tennessee could be next. Republicans embrace “school choice,” saying children should not be trapped in failing public schools. Instead, they say, students should be able to attend whichever school is best for them, regardless of their family’s income.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush started the school choice push in Florida more than two decades ago, and this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking it across the finish line by making it available to families at any income level.

“Florida has regained the championship belt in terms of being the leading, most expansive driver of educational choice in the country,” Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children, told Business Insider. “Everybody eyeing higher office is seeing how popular this is and trying to one-up each other.”

The controversies over curriculum content in traditional public schools and school choice as an alternative to public schools will combine in the 2024 race to become true vote-moving issues that promise to pay political dividends to Republicans all across the nation at all levels: federal, state and local.