What do Bridgeport, Connecticut Mayor Bill Finch and South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford have in common? Both are Democrats and both are now supporting school vouchers.
In March, State Senator Ford, an African-American Democrat, joined conservative legislators in sponsoring a sweeping private school choice plan for kids in the Palmetto State. Confronting the criticism that he was hurting public education, Sen. Ford spoke in clear terms: “You’re d–n right I’m hurting public education, because public education is hurting our kids…All of us have been defending the system. It’s time to stop.”
In Bridgeport, Mayor Finch offered an honest assessment for the need for real school choice for his struggling schools system: “I perpetuate the creation of an underclass every day I open my classes up because I can’t catch up. I can’t get my kids to catch up… I wasn’t planning on this being my coming-out party, but I believe, certainly, in public school choice for all the troubled cities. We have to strengthen and increase our charters. We have to work with the private schools.”
The Connecticut Post continues: He said city kids could attend private school in Bridgeport for a “fraction” of the cost of public school. “I think we have to look at all those things. Otherwise, I’m just going to give you children that when they graduate, aren’t going to be where we want them to be and I feel terrible about that.”
Sen. Ford and Mayor Finch are just the latest in a growing number of Democratic elected officials embracing school choice. According to the Alliance for School Choice, Democrats have joined Republicans in Florida and Louisiana to pass legislation expanding private school choice options, and Democrats are also pushing school choice bills in traditionally blue states like Maryland and New Jersey.
With the fate of the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program to be decided by the Obama administration and the liberal majority in Congress, the futures of 1,700 disadvantaged kids now depends on prominent Democrats inside the Beltway recognize the urgent need for change that other members of their party are finally seeing across the country.