Last week’s journal featured background on the historical, ideological and legal underpinnings of the school choice movement. This week, I am reporting to you straight from the school choice trenches. School choice legal expert Dave Roland and I are currently blitzing across the state of North Carolina on a public education tour on choice and the constitution, hitting 6 cities in 4 days. Wherever we go, the message to us is clear: North Carolinians are ready for school choice.
Fortunately, choice in North Carolina does not face the same constitutional restrictions courts have found in some other states. Dave Roland, attorney with the Institute for Justice, is the author of our tour’s featured report, “School Choice and the North Carolina Constitution.” This report demonstrates that North Carolina’s Constitution is more compatible with school choice than any other state constitution. According to Mr. Roland, “There is no question that school choice is fully consistent with North Carolina’s Constitution, legal history and innovative educational practices.” Mr. Roland has addressed crowds at restaurants, hotels, and business venues on our tour and has been the featured guest on talk radio programs across the state. The Alliance has produced a companion one-page “Fast Facts” piece with highlights of the report for you to distribute in your community.
This report offers good news for reformers about the legality of school choice. Legal issues aside, the choice movement still faces considerable political hurdles. Choice programs in North Carolina are likely to encounter stiff opposition from the education bureaucracy (fondly referred to as the BLOB, or Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies), and organizations against school choice, I refer to as GOMs (Gatekeepers of Mediocrity). Both groups flex a powerful political muscle and are united in their fight against free market alternatives to our government education monopoly.
The good news is that public opinion has the power to neutralize the education establishment and other anti-choice groups. Recent surveys of Charlotte, Raleigh, and most recently Wake County residents reveal entrenched and widespread dissatisfaction with our current education system. Wasteful spending and inept leadership are fueling a growing desire for change. And incessant requests for more money (but little accountability), poor graduation rates, faltering academic performance, and ever-increasing government regulations do little to build confidence. Clearly, our government-controlled education system isn’t making the grade.
Yet misinformation and inaccuracies about choice persist, largely due to the efforts of the movement’s opponents. Fortunately, two new resources should help set the record straight. The Alliance for School Choice recently launched a new website, edspresso.com, dedicated to providing reformers with access to daily commentary, national education news, online debates, and guest columns on school choice issues. In addition, the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation’s publication, the “2005-2006 ABC’s of School Choice” is the BEST resource available for learning about the 18 different school choice programs currently in operation around the country. This publication defines choice terminology and answers questions that school choice advocates face as they talk to others about this issue. If you would like a hard copy, please contact me at 704.231.9767 or by email.
Yes, there are battles still to fight to bring choice and educational freedom to North Carolina. But the moment is right for change, and school choice occupies the ideological high ground. As Victor Hugo wrote, “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” To the BLOB and all of its allies, be forewarned: choice is on the march.
Lindalyn Kakadelis is the Director of the North Carolina Education Alliance. Reprinted with permission.