A while ago school choice policies were gaining steam across the country. Charter schools and vouchers were still somewhat controversial, but more and more people on both sides had started to see the benefits of school choice. Now, a
new wave of opposition has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. So what happened? An election happened. Trump won that election. As you may have heard,
Trump is extremely unpopular with liberals. Amazingly, he found someone equally as unpopular to put in charge of the Department of Education: Betsy DeVos. Trump and DeVos favor school choice. Therein lies the issue. In this hyperpartisan environment cultivated by Trump’s election, opinions have become more polarized than ever.
School choice advocates in private are very worried about the optics of the Trump administration's favorable view of school choice policies because they believe such an association has the potential to erode support from the liberal base. Unfortunately, the data says they're right. Public opinion on school choice is
closely tied to the Trump administration. Essentially, we have allowed an incredibly nuanced issue like school choice to become a partisan, yea or nay issue. And that’s silly. If you’re a liberal, you have a great many reasons to dislike the Trump administration, but we shouldn’t arbitrarily dislike something simply because Trump or DeVos favors it. There are valid points and arguments on both sides, but the average American doesn’t know them and makes decisions similar to the way they make any policy decision: “What do the people I identify with think?” This is why we have a duty to make sure the discourse stays on the actual topics and policies and not those advocating for the policies. Are you really going to fight against a parent’s right to choose a quality school for their child just because the Trump administration happens to think it’s a good idea? Donald Trump is a huge football fan. Will you stop watching football simply because he likes it? DeVos is a big supporter of the arts. Does this mean you will skip “Hamilton” when it comes to town? For me, the answer to those questions is no. Over the next four years, Trump and DeVos will be on the wrong side of enough issues. Let's be happy they are on the right side of this one and move on. Some of my generation, the millennials, are already sending their own children to school. Millennials are
decidedly anti-Trump. However,
75 percent of us favor school choice. Let’s not pretend that we’re sticking it to the man because, in reality, we are just sticking it to our kids.
Andrew Pillow is a fifth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Indianapolis, a charter school where he has taught since 2011. He is also a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow and he has taught technology and social issues.