Gary Johnson

As Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson Was an Early Advocate for School Choice

The Libertarian Party presidential nominee plugged his education record during a CNN Town Hall event.


Credit: CNN

Wednesday night's CNN Town Hall event with Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, William Weld, was the first of its kind for a third party in US electoral history. Throughout most of the Presidential debates so far, education has gotten the short shrift, with a few notable exceptions. Wednesday's event delivered, however. 

When asked about his record as the former Governor of New Mexico, Johnson pointed to education as one of his legacies:

"Well, I maybe was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice," he said. "Really, I think that we should bring competition to public education. I would like to get the federal government out of education, allowing state dollars to be spent in those states as opposed to making a detour in Washington where you send money 13 cents to Washington and it come back 11 cents and then it come back with mandates." 

Johnson's record fighting to expand parental choice as a governor is pretty astounding. Frustrated with rising costs and stagnating scores, Johnson proposed what would have been the nation's first statewide school voucher program—and he did it all the way back in 1999.

Previously, vouchers only existed in individual cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland. Johnson's plan would have enrolled 100,000 students in its first year of operation. In the face of a majority Democratic legislature, Johnson fought for vouchers to the point of vetoing two budgets that didn't include them, almost taking New Mexico into a government shutdown in the process. Johnson ultimately buckled and signed a budget without the vouchers, but renewed the fight his next year in office.

Johnson doubled down the next year, introducing an even more sweeping voucher program that would give each eligible children $3,500 to put toward private school tuition. Democrats countered with a plan to throw an extra $90 million at New Mexico's public schools—without any vouchers. Once again, Johnson and New Mexico democrats nearly went into a shutdown over school choice.

Ultimately, Johnson was unsuccessful. There are still no private school choice programs in New Mexico to this day.

All the same, Johnson was an early high profile advocate for school choice at a time when doing so was a lot more difficult politically. For people who care about education reform, that's something to keep an eye on this 2016 race.

Watch ReasonTV's highlight reel from Johnson's Town Hall event:

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  1. Yeah, he’s going to be stealing a lot of votes from Hillary.

    1. (gets mop and shop-vac to clean up after “/sarc” tidal-wave)

    2. Or, he will not get into the debates and will end up chucking a tantrum and rage quitting.

  2. Well, I maybe was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice

    “Maybe more outspoken than any governor”? I can just feel the excitement resonating from that pull quote. Put that shit on a bumper sticker and watch the Libertarian votes roll in.

    So I realize libertarians are bad at the whole “charisma” thing in general, but they really doubled down on worthless by picking someone who replaces the kamikaze-level devotion for liberty that most libertarians have with a congealed mess of essentially meaningless policy proposals and a bloodless affection every establishment politician under the sun.

  3. I’m afraid I’m voting for Hilary.

    He’s not going to even got to the debates at this point. Yesterday’s presentation was just awful.

    I really like Gary and I even voted for him in 2012.

    However, I can’t risk this Trump character.

    1. But you are willing to risk a multiple felon?

      1. If anyone says “i’m voting for {Trump/Hillary} because I can’t risk {Hillary/Trump}, I would hope they live in a state where the race is going to be close. If Hill is going to curb-stomp the Donald in my state, I will have absolutely no guilt filling in the bubble for Johnson/Weld. I wouldn’t have any if the election in my state ended up as a tie, but that’s just me. I’ve voted for every LP presidential candidate since the Ed Clark campaign in 1980. I still regret not voting for Roger McBride in `76, but I wasn’t clued in, then.

        1. I regret voting for Bush in 1988, but it was my first election and I was young.

          I registered GOP for the first time in 2007 so I could vote for Ron in the prez primary, since I owed him a vote I didnt give him in ’88.

          No state is within 1 vote so that is never an issue anyway.

          1. As the supreme court showed the world in 2000, if the margin of victory in any state is less than 1000, THEY will decide the outcome, not the particular state’s supreme court, and certainly not the voters.

          2. To be fair, he was way better than Dukakis.

        2. After my libertarian awakaning, I studied the LP with a mind toward becoming an active participant in it; I quickly worked out that it was
          a) a trainwreck
          b) doomed by the incentives and realities of the U.S. political system to be irrelevant
          c) that its irrelevance doomed it to always be a trainwreck

          Hence my utter lack of surprise at how rarely the people it fields for elected office are capable of the job and not certifiable lunatics, bozos, or rejects from the major parties who can’t function even when benefiting from he majors’ incumbent protections schemes.

          I think the wisest course of action is to not vote for anyone at all.

          1. I think the wisest course of action is to not vote for anyone at all.

            That’s been me since 1996.

            People love to throw that old argument in my face that, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the results!” To which I say, “Okay. I went into a restaurant the other night. It reeked of sulfur and bleach. The hostess didn’t acknowledge me. There were rats running throughout the dining room. I saw people walking out holding their stomachs and groaning. By your logic, I would have to eat there in order to complain about the experience.”

            1. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the results!”

              Yeah, I used to buy that too, especially growing up in Australia where voting was mandatory.

              My response now, if I get asked which is rare, if I don’t vote, my fingerprints aren’t on anything the winner does. So, if you voted for Obama and you still “love the guy” (as I saw on a blog post last week), congratulations you’re partially responsible for his violations of the Fourth Amendment and for at least some of the people slaughtered by drone strikes in the Middle East.

            2. I think it’s quite obvious that logic dictates that the only people who cannot complain about the winner of any election are the people who voted for the winner.

            3. It’s actually the exact opposite. If you voted, then wtf are you complaining about? You got what you asked for, right?

    2. However, I can’t risk this Trump character.

      Look Alice, Johnson and Weld are Republican ex-governors. It’s clear that they’re going to pull votes from the Republican candidate come November. You and all you #NeverTrumpers should hit the Donald where it hurts and vote for Johnson/Weld.

      1. Roger.

    3. “GO TEAM GO!!!”

      You were always going to vote for Hillary, just like the “libertarians” here such as SIV and PapayaSF were always going to vote for Trump. And you’ll enjoy doing so, which is why I’ll never understand the faux hand-wrining and bullshit excuse-making.

      “Oh jeez ? you know, I really wanted to vote for Johnson and the LP because the two major parties and their nominees are horrible, but yeah ? I guess I have a ‘duty’ to stop the ‘more evil’ candidate by voting for the ‘lesser evil.’ But I totally won’t enjoy it, so don’t blame me just because your candidate sucks. It isn’t my fault that you’re making me vote for the BLUE/RED TEAM…”

      1. This. It would be nice if the various team tards would all die in a fire.

        1. Or just stop telling the rest of us that we have to vote for one of the major party candidates lest you want the other major party candidate to win.

          I equally loathe the Repubs and Dems. They both loot from the treasury to pay off their cronies, they both peddle fear, and paranoia, and hysteria to enact their agendas, their top figures are usually assholes, or they’re corrupt, or they’re assholes who are also corrupt.

          Not the LP candidates are anything to write home about, but the two major parties have turned the voting public into warring tribes, or street gangs, or competing pirate ships. It’s disgusting.

  4. As someone who used a felt tip pen and a stencil to make his own “Vote Ed Clark” bumpersticker in 1980, the fact that CNN is interviewing the Libertarian candidate on TV makes me wonder if someone has slipped me LSD. I understand the frustration by some of you today, but it sounds a lot like the black rights activists who say that “no progress” has been made in race relations in the last fifty years.

    1. I think a lot of libertarians get embarrassed when the spotlight is on the Libertarian Party.

      1. Others (raises hand) don’t actually think “libertarianism” is something that should function as a political party… rather than an ideological movement which should apply itself to every aspect of life.

        Politics is primarily about merging disparate constituencies together under some generic umbrella in order to gain power. that process does not play well with “philosophy”. I’m more interested in advocating for specific policies…. rather than diluting libertarianism to meaninglessness simply to “get more votes”

        1. Well said, but that will continue to be the self-defeating nature of the libertarian movement.

          Rand Paul tried his best (I hope) but let’s be honest; if he actually tried to be a more genuine libertarian on issues like ISIS, immigration, drugs, etc. he would have had virtually no major platform at all (and the neocons on stage — Rubio, Christie, Fiorina, Bush — would have ganged up on him and laughed him off the stage).

          The “general consensus” for a while used to be that the libertarians needed to either take over the GOP or push it in a more libertarian direction (Ron and Rand Paul tried this) but if anything, the GOP has now become even more staunchly anti-libertarian given the rise of Trump.

          The GOP voters just want their fully-funded Medicare and SS, and more wars, and “security” without having to be pay for it. They now hate trade and want to ban those icky dirty peasants otherwise known as immigrants. Plus they’re less open to drug reform because they just want a bully who can “punch back” at the PC left. So they’re going to continue being the SoCon party.

          We’re fucked.

          1. The GOP just nominated a man who forced his mistress (who he committed adultery with) to have an abortion to be president.

            How is that being the SoCon party?

            1. How is that being the SoCon party?

              Because that’s the old “social conservatism.” Over 40% of Trump’s own voters are pro-choice according to various polls. They don’t care about the mistress/abortion stuff. They want immigrants deported and/or banned and they want Donald to go after those wily Orientals and sneaky/dirty Mexicans.

  5. So you’re saying the Libertarian candidate had a Republican position when he was the Republican? Shocking!

    And isn’t the libertarian position on education that the parents should pay for it and it’s no one else’s business?

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