Republican Convention 2020

The First Night of the RNC Offered a Full-Throated Defense of School Choice

Republicans have turned away from freedom in many ways during the Trump era, but at least they've embraced school choice at the national level.


Monday's opening night of the Republican National Convention provided a whirlwind tour of what the Trumpified GOP opposes: socialism, globalism, and anyone who might suggest that the president's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was anything other than stellar.

You have to look a little harder to find out what policies the Republican Party supports these days—and the RNC made it harder still by refusing, in the days before the convention opened, to publish an actual platform. But if the first day of the convention is any indication, school choice is going to get heavy rotation during the rest of the campaign.

It was telling that the Republicans chose to kick-off their convention with remarks from Rebecca Friedrich, the California public school teacher who became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged teachers unions' authority to compel the payment of dues from teachers who disagree with a union's politics. Union-backed efforts aimed at stopping charter schools and school choice, she said on Monday, are responsible for "trapping so many precious, low-income children in dangerous, corrupt, and low-performing schools."

By contrast, Friedrichs said, Trump wants to give parents greater choice over where their children are educated.

It's true that "ensuring school choice for all children" is a part of Trump's second term agenda, a wishlist that the GOP is promoting this week in lieu of an actual platform. The document is devoid of any specific policy ideas. Since schools are mostly run by state and local authorities, there is probably limited potential for Trump to single-handedly implement school choice—which is itself a catch-all term for a wide range of ideas and not a singular policy to be switched on or off—at the national level.

Still, it's welcome to see Republicans embracing educational choice at the party's convention. If nothing else, what gets said at the RNC can provide a signal to the state and local officials who will be setting policy in the years to come.

And there was plenty of talk about the importance of school choice on Monday. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., hit the theme as well.

Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.), in one of the better speeches of the convention's first night, outlined a powerful argument for why parents should have a greater say in their children's education.

"I don't care if it's a public, private, charter, virtual, or a home school," Scott said. "When a parent has a choice, a kid has a better chance."

The GOP's embrace of school choice feels a little bit incongruous considering the party's turn away from freedom on so many other issues—from immigration to trade—and the Trump administration's general lack of concrete policy goals. So much of Monday's programming was dedicated to titillating Trump's base of supporters that Scott's argument about educational choice as an opportunity for all families to achieve the American dream may have been lost in the noise.

But with many traditional public schools remaining closed in response to COVID-19 and working families forced to consider alternative arrangements, now is a great time to talk about school choice. For anyone disheartened by the Republican Party's turn away from its traditional appeals for smaller government and greater individual responsibility, tonight's RNC suggests maybe that light has not fully gone out.

NEXT: The RNC Shouldn't Be Bragging About the Paycheck Protection Program

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  1. One of the ways to compare Democrats and Republicans is by policies. You'd have to weight them and make subjective judgements, but that used to be how it was done.

    Nowadays, there's so little useful in their platforms that you are left with very simple differences:
    * The Democrats hate everybody, even themselves, and their only goal is to expand government by every devious means possible until everyone gets paid by the government and nobody does any work; they are either pretending to get a useless education (does anyone actually expect STEM to survive the Green New Deal?), or telling everyone else what to pretend to do.
    * The Republicans follow Trump, which currently means repeating over and over how much they love America to the exclusion of everybody and everything else, including trade. But they have no other goals.

    On the whole, as bad as both are, the Republicans are slightly less bad, because Trump does have better taste in judges, he does make some steps towards reducing regulations, he does make baby steps towards draining the swamp. and best of all, when he is done playing President, they will have to start from a clean slate, because he is the closest the country has seen to a transparent administration, and there is not one single politician who can repeat that.

    1. Republicans don’t hate trade. Republicans, and a lot of other folks (including me) are tired of one sided trade deals from command economies that stack the deck against American businesses. Which isn’t really free trade at all, now is it?

      The whole thing about hating everyone else is ridiculous. Trump is actually interested in prioritizing the interests of Americans over foreigners. Not to the exclusion of foreigners. Which is very correct of him.

      As far as most of the GOP goes, it’s a basket case, sustained largely by the fact that democrats are a radical socialist bunch of traitors anymore. It’s only the republican opposition to full on state slavery that makes the party at all palatable anymore.

      1. So foreigners are interfering with school choices?

        We already have choice with schools. The thing I do not have is choice with property taxes to fund the public school system. I do have a choice to move to a lower tax area which I am planning this year.

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      2. Your economic ignorance is showing. Fuck off.

        Here's a question you cannot answer, because no protectionist ever has been able to answer it: What the fuck gives you the moral authority to have any say in who I do business with?

        You are an economic ignoramus, a statist control freak, and no friend of liberty. Fuck off, slaver.

        1. Oh shut up. If you want to do business elsewhere, pack up and GO. But don't sit here, sponging off our standard of living while utilizing a labor market that doesn't use its salary to pay for building and housing regulations, construction standards for infrastructure, or any other First World niceties that makes First World labor more costly than 2nd or 3rd world labor.

          We don't want America looking like a 3rd world, so we having regulations in building homes and infrastructure that make housing not cheap. Have a problem with it? Then go to where your preferred labor market is.

          Americans can't compete with indians in the labor market and it isn't a free market solution to exempt employers from the supply/demand pressures of the labor marketplace caused by poor education investment and high standards of living.

          1. The free market never promised you anything.

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          2. This makes zero sense. None. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

          3. As a comment, that might be one of the most economically illiterate ones I've seen in a long time.

            First, Americans can and do compete with Indians in the labor market all the time. And they win whenever they can deliver more value for the buck. They lose when they demand more than they are worth.

            Regulations do raise labor costs in the US and Europe but lots of those regulations are inefficient, protectionist and unrelated to standards of living. Regulations are not what keeps America from "looking like [the] 3rd world".

            "Cheap" infrastructure is also not driving the cost differences between labor markets. But even if it were, that's at best a short-term gain because as economies improve, they spend their excess capital to improve their own infrastructures.

            But let's look at it another way, too. If you really think that competition between labor markets is evil, then do you think that California has a right to blockade Alabama, Ohio or North Carolina from competing with them? All your arguments about the US vs India apply equally to CA vs AL. Have you packed up your business and moved to CA? Are you crying in your beer over all the companies that are fleeing CA?

          4. utilizing a labor market that doesn’t use its salary to pay for building and housing regulations, construction standards for infrastructure

            Can I get some croutons on that word salad? What the hell are you talking about?

        2. and here ABC thinks his actions have no market effect on others. Because he is an economic dummy.

        3. Let me use an example of why ABCs entire economic theory is kindergarten like.

          He says straight up here nobody has the right to choose who he buys from.

          Under his system the mob would be free to rob and steal from other suppliers and open up store fronts to sell these goods at lower market prices. If you wanted government to intercede then fuck you because he has a right to buy cheap stolen goods.

          1. ABC is right and you are, frankly, wrong. The evil that government can forbid is the stealing of stuff.

            They can also forbid you from knowingly conspiring to take custody of stolen goods. But "knowingly" is an essential element of the crime. The critical difference you seem to be missing is that the restriction is on the goods, not the seller.

            First, you can (and should) lock Bob up for stealing the widgets. Second, you can legitimately tell me I can't buy that box of stolen widgets. But you can't tell arbitrarily tell me not to buy anything from Bob.

      3. If you're ABC your economic knowledge stops at ideal systems taught in freshman or high-school economic classes. It also requires a denial of actual reality. He refuses to even admit to the addition of game theory as an economic theory. He also refuses to admit even Adam Smith discussed retaliatory actions against bad actors in a market. Of course to realize that last part ABC would have to admit China is a bad actor, which ha also refuses to do.

  2. a wishlist that the GOP is promoting this week in lieu of an actual platform

    A "wishlist" has a lot better chanceof becoming policy/law than a "platform". Didn't the GOP platform used to have stuff about abolishing whole government departments and agencies, and maybe some stuff about ending affirmative action?

    Fuck Republicans. Trump is cool because he isn't really a Republican at all.

    1. whats odd about his quoted statement is the RNC released a list of about 50 items before the RNC started that exactly referred to many policies. Some would call that a platform

  3. Libertarians will ride any coattails. Just a hooker parade.

  4. It wouldn’t be an article at all, one would think, if it couldn’t take even the most tangential of excuses to bash Trump.

    School choice being a major part in the current political conversation is a major plus from a libertarian perspective, and definitely a hot topic here at Reason, but apparently saying essentially exactly what they’d want him to say still isn’t good enough to fend off a chance to tell me how bad the Orange Man is.

    This alone should be enough to convince a whole lot of people. Our school systems are showing just exactly how inept they are. Like the rest of the Leviathan, government schools have shown that bureaucratic weight is crushing their ability to do anything right now. They simply can’t adjust, and break.

    Schools aren’t in session right now not because of the coof, but because government school systems are incapable of finding out how to function in context of the coof, either by complete incompetence in school boards, or because of government red tape or executive mandate. Probably both.

    Removing education from that clutches of that shithole of a reality would be a major step in improving the lives of everyone but teachers unions. A major win for libertarianism.

    Entire systems are shut down, and ALL of them are either government run, or have been shut down because of government mandate. Cities are fucking burning with mobs destroying property all over the place because government gas failed to adjust. Lockdowns are making it worse.

    1. Schools aren’t in session right now not because of the coof, but because government school systems are incapable of finding out how to function in context of the coof, either by complete incompetence in school boards, or because of government red tape or executive mandate. Probably both.

      I can think of another reason. It starts with a "u" and ends with an "n".

      1. Unicorns have nothing to do with it, I can assure you.

      2. Well of course you can. It's right in your handle.

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  6. "Still, it's welcome to see Republicans embracing educational choice at the party's convention."

    Welcome? Give me a fucking break.

    This is a specific point that really grinds my gears. Every time a Republican supports a libertarian policy, a Libertarian is there to damn them with faint praise. We "welcome" the GOP support. Oh, please.

    If anything, the GOP welcomes Libertarian support when it comes to school choice. The fact that we have Charter Schools. The fact that we have federal vouchers for failing schools. These are fucking policies championed by REPUBLICANS since at least 1992- not by libertarians. Because libertarians can champion exactly Jack and Shit when it comes to actual people elected to office in government.

    I don't expect libertarians and republicans to always get along, and my journey from GOP to Libertarian has put proof to that reality. But the absolute disdain that many Lib's have towards the GOP- even when they are supporting Lib ideas- is 90% of the reason I didn't make the conversion earlier.

    1. Well said. I have long said that a libertarian is someone who, given an election between Reagan and Stalin, will dedicate all of his energy to criticizing Reagan and then refuse to vote.

      This article didn't need to be a backhanded compliment.

      1. "either by complete incompetence in school boards, or because of government red tape or executive mandate. Probably both."

        Yes this is especially true in the case of School Choice. By appointing DeVos, Trump has done more for the spread of school choice than the introduction of Charter schools- introduced back in the early 90s. (an action ALSO done by the republicans).

        1. Agreed.

          And it seems like something Reason should be trumpeting g from the hilltops, as opposed to their “broken clock” argument.

          1. It wasn't until well into the 21st Century that Reason became so unfair to the Republican Party, but then really ramped that tilt up in the time Trump started campaigning and since he entered office.

            Reason magazine was where that possibly influential article appeared in, IIRC, the late 1990s by someone from the charter school movement trying to persuade libertarians that charters deliver everything libertarians had been advocating as well as vouchers or tuition tax credits would. Until then most articles had been that the charter movement would divert libertarians and others from a school choice movement that appeared to be gaining momentum.

            No way to prove it, but I think the charter school movement has been an effective stepping stone in the school choice movement, and an important part of that was convincing libertarians and others who were pro-choice that they would be such a stepping stone.

    2. In the 1990s leading libertarian lights opposed the charter school movement, calling it a distraction from the goal of separation of school and state, thinking it was co-opting school choice supporters at the last minute into supporting tax-funded schools. At the grass roots many libertarians saw charter schools as progress, but the movement was at best divided on the issue. So the GOP's been better unless you think radical libertarians have been right all along.

  7. Libertarians will ride any coattails. Just a hooker parade.

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  9. Another Birdbrain Boehm article. FFS, this guy is pathetic. I wonder if he is really a parody writer at times, because his idiotic pronouncements cannot have been made by a thinking, rational human being.

    What is 'wrong' with school choice? If you ask Team D, it is all about the diminishment of public sector union power. They don't advocate for children; they advocate for their union.

    1. We just don’t want to see Republicans steal public money for favored industries and turn the enterprise to shit as usual. It’s 2020 and they’re still trying to sell us Enron versions of everything.

      1. Whine louder.

      2. Tony is just defending his party's ideals and doesn't want the GOP to take of his.

      3. If we’re to be forced to subsidize schools, we want a choice where we send our children, not be locked in to a monopoly that send my kids to a school decided only by their zip code.

        Now if you want to have an honest conversation about not forcing people to pay property tax in order to fund schooling, we can do that. But as it stands I pay my property tax, which overwhelmingly go towards schools, or I lose my home. I want to have a choice of where and how that money is spent in my children.

        1. You have always been welcome to send your children to a private school. What you misunderstand is the notion that your taxes are paying for your children’s education specifically, when really you’re paying for education generally so that neither your children nor those of your neighbors go feral.

      4. We just don’t want to see Republicans steal public money for favored industries and turn the enterprise to shit as usual.

        Now tell us about the Democrats and Common Core.

      5. The public school system is producing shit outcomes, despite $15,000 per student per year across the US. It needs competition.

  10. "The GOP's embrace of school choice feels a little bit incongruous considering the party's turn away from freedom on so many other issues—from immigration to trade"

    "so many"

    Still waiting for that article on excise taxes, bitch

    1. Excise taxes should only be levied against people who can bench press more than 600 pounds.

  11. Full-throated covers it in several ways.

    1. Too easy.

  12. My leftist, democratic friends keep telling me we need to be more like Sweden. I say yes and point out that Sweden has no inheritance tax or 100% school choice they try to make believe that is not true. They tend to believe their lying minds.

    1. Sweden implemented a form of charter schools in 1992 and only saw a decline in student performance. While that can’t cleanly be contributed to the charters, it’s certainly no success story. And when a school is fully subsidized by the state, I still struggle to understand the difference in principle. What other massive universally available services do libertarians support fully subsidizing (besides the war machine)?

      Private industry sucking the teat of government is hardly an ideal libertarian solution, though you guys seem to support every such scheme to do so as long as the industry in question is on the GOP donor list.

      1. It's about funneling tax dollars into religious schools. In other words these mfers want a handout.

        1. You mean, out of the money they've had forcibly taken from them for schools, they want some directed to the schools they prefer?

    2. I thought everybody in Sweden died because they didn't follow Fauci's rules.

  13. "..a whirlwind tour of what the Trumpified GOP opposes: socialism, globalism.."

    Reason stumping for global socialism. Very libertarian.

  14. Interesting. Somehow Eric's search engine allows him to cite VOX (?!), yet cannot find the republican Party Platform.

    Here, Eric; journalism 101, and .24 seconds on Google:

    1. And he gets paid to do this shit.

  15. Sure, Team Red and Libertarians may both support the same goal of school choice, but they tend to do so for very different reasons.

    Libertarians tend to support school choice because it is the more liberty-affirming solution to the problem of educating kids. It provides parents and kids with the ability to find educational solutions that best tailor their needs.

    Team Red, on the other hand, tends to support school choice - at least in this day and age - out of paranoid fears that public schools are 'indoctrinating' kids, out of hatred towards teacher unions which are presumed to be Team Blue stooges, and out of a desire to see public money funneled into peddling Christian myths. It's not liberty-affirming, it's culture war bullshit. That is reason enough for Libertarians to stand a measured distance apart from Team Red on this issue even when policy goals ostensibly overlap to an extent.

    1. "out of hatred towards teacher unions which are presumed to be Team Blue stooges"

      It's not a presumption.

      "and out of a desire to see public money funneled into peddling Christian myths."

      Not all (R)s are socons.

    2. That's not a winning strategy. You help row the boat as long as it's going in the direction you want. It's not going to help you to stop rowing before you get to your destination or to where your paths would diverge. I don't care why the other people in the boat want to row in my direction.

    3. What's that fallacy, where one misrepresents their opponents' views?

      1. Chemjeffing.

    4. Your anti-Christian bigotry shows. Your claim that tax money is desired to cause Christian advances is false, as it is not part of the Republican platform.

  16. Republicans have turned away from freedom in many ways during the Trump era, but at least they've embraced school choice at the national level.

    More lies from Boehm.

    GOP platform is right here

  17. Schools and choice provide an enlightening contradiction.

    Most liberals and progressives demand some sort of government-managed and funded socialized medicine, and the elimination of the choices we have now for insurance and other schemes. To prove how foolish we are, they cite how the US spends more per person than most Euro countries, and gets worse outcomes (at least by some measures).

    Most liberals and progressives also demand government schools and seek to eliminate other choices. But the US spends much more per student than most Euro countries, and gets worse outcomes.

    What did I miss?

    1. "Most liberals and progressives also demand government schools and seek to eliminate other choices. But the US spends much more per student than most Euro countries, and gets worse outcomes".
      Exactly! And this is illiteracy is a root cause for "systemic racism" - if one believes that such a thing exists.

    2. You didn't follow the money and monopoly power. Lots of that American healthcare dollar is paid by business and individuals making their own healthcare decisions. How dare they (also, we want a big piece of that action)! Government schools take public tax money and empower the state directly and via public-sector unions. In this case, more money spent is awesome, keep it coming!

  18. the party's turn away from freedom on so many other issues—from immigration to trade

    What is this past Mr. Boehm imagines? The past 50 years? The past 20? 5? And besides immigration and trade, what else?

    The GOP is neither much more nor much less libertarian now than it has been in the recent past, whether it's the leadership or the rank and file you're polling, or measuring on actions. The big shift has been to authoritarianism among the Democrats, to where the Republicans have emerged as the clearly better choice for libertarians. They're not much more libertarian than they used to be, but have risen a little with the tide on such issues as marijuana — that is, as the country as a whole has become more liberal on such matters, so has the average Republican. But by staying more or less the way they've been, they've surpassed the Democrats by a long way.

    On school choice, the Democrats too have risen with the tide. Are there any cities where students still can go only to their district school? The Democrats want to limit school choice to public school choice, as Bill Clinton said in his 1996 acceptance speech, and they've backslid on their brief inclusion of charter schools in that desired mix, but they're not trying to go back to the recent time when there was no public school choice at all.

    So just as the Democrats are still better on average than Republicans on marijuana legalization, Republicans are on average better than Democrats on school choice — but they're all better on each than they used to be.

    1. The Republicans are not slightly better on liberty, they are slightly worse than they have been in the past.

      The Democrats are so much worse, it does not matter.

      1. Of course it depends on when "the past" is, but on balance the Republicans seem to me to be slightly better. A majority of Republicans now favor legal pot, which threshold they passed just within the past few years. In recent years many Republican states as well as Democratic ones have legalized fireworks, or more categories of common fireworks. For decades Republican legislators, both state and federal, tried to be "responsible" by raising taxes or not cutting them, when they came in after Democrats raised spending (and when Republicans were unable to achieve spending cuts); in this century they're willing to cut taxes regardless of deficits. And now a Republican administration has achieved net deregulation at the federal level for the first time in 40 years.

    2. Does it really matter what party? Let parents decide what school and use the current school taxes to fund that tuition. Reroute public school tax funding to the non public schools. I've lived and worked in 4 States and all Public School annual per pupil costs exceed the tuition of many better outcome private schools. Ironically this lowers taxes. Expanding the K-12 non public school options paid for by taxes creates competition any everyone would benefit,. The public school teachers and their union pushing back on competition proves their ineptness, bias and fear of transparency.

  19. >>Republicans have turned away from freedom in many ways during the Trump era, but at least they've embraced school choice at the national level.

    Republicans ... embraced school choice at the national level. Rest is you bitching.

  20. Teachers Union dues amount to approx $2 Billion annually and that money was spent and used to create even lower educational outcomes; lower effective useful student skill sets, $1.6 Trillion in Student debt and most notably "systemic racism". The K-12 Public School System is mostly broken, current events validate this fact.

  21. The school systems in the US are badly in need of an overhaul and an influx of new ideas, that's for sure. But plug in a capitalistic idea into an oligarchy like ours and the separation between the haves and have nots will most assuredly widen.

    School choice is a misnomer. Poor people won't have more choice. They still won't be able to afford the expensive private schools that the well-to-do send their kids to, but the well-to-do will see a nice refund in their property taxes that are currently spent on public schools.

    This is certainly not an easy problem to solve. The real problem exists in the families that either don't care about their kids' educations or have to work so hard to make ends meet they're never home to give the kind of support needed to be successful at school. Parent involvement is critical to a child's success. Those that climb out of the poorer neighborhoods are usually the ones who have a parent or grandparent who have their backs. Like I said, not an easy problem to solve, but giving what amounts to a tax break to people choosing to send their kids to private schools won't solve that issue either. If anything it may make it worse.

  22. Before college, Trump. Jr. was educated at the Buckley School (current tuition: $51,500) and the Hill School ($63,870, boarding; $44,060, Day). I wonder if either of these schools will be available to local families in a school choice program?

    "a lawsuit that challenged teachers unions' authority to compel the payment of dues from teachers who disagree with a union's politics." If a teacher wants out fine: Let them negotiate their own salary, sick leave, medical coverage, tuition reimbursement, class size, etc. - all of which unions are required to negotiate for non-members as well as members.

  23. Public education, K-12 through our best universities, is the business of neither federal nor state government. Public education has collapsed intellectually but cannot be replaced as you would replace your home. It's just too big. The central problem is the notion of "public" education and "federal" intrusion. Children will improve when parents feel their money being spent. And adults will be more careful about their private money.

    Public teaching has been fundamentally transformed into an enormous entitlement, and dispensing entitlements is the heart of the democrat strategy. It cannot be said too many times: the absence of competition is the problem. This kind of corruption is a byproduct of public education.

    Regarding K-12, state governments may immediately start allowing per pupil allocations to be awarded to any accredited institution according to the parents' choice. Many states have such systems operating under various titles but the principle is privatization. States could use existing accreditation systems or establish their own.

    A comprehensive free enterprise education system eliminates the ability to trample one civil right by supporting an opposing civil right. Perhaps more importantly, it precludes indoctrination of students to unwelcome political agendas. Government schools should be allowed to compete with private schools.

    The primary problem with the K-12 segment is it's a monopoly in a nation where monopoly is considered a criminal enterprise for everyone else. A major flaw is taxpayers, with no children and those whose children have graduated from public schools, have no choice regarding which institution receives their money. I've never heard it mentioned that such taxpayers are in a vast majority but the government makes that choice for them. Colleges compete for government money.

    The school choice solution is not the teachers' idea of choice and certainly not the union's idea. Most know what's needed is a robust free market filled with all kinds of accredited schools, able to deliver general subjects as well as all kinds of specialties, including athletics and the arts. Bottom line, it's a very bad idea for any government to educate its children.

  24. If only tim Scott was at the top of the ticket

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