Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Fox News contributor Juan Williams today enjoyed a rare moment of agreement — over the importance of parental choice in education.
Scott spoke of an opportunity to have “a robust debate with parents and teachers across the country,” while Williams called it a “need to blow up a dysfunctional system” with any “mechanisms” that allow children in failing public schools to succeed.
The two teased and joshed about each other on a panel at the Conservative Policy Summit convened at Heritage by its political action arm, Heritage Action for America. But both men were earnest about finding ways to give parents alternative educational uses for the money that government budgets to school their children.
Williams is a vocal proponent of school choice, beginning with his own experiences as a parent in Washington, D.C. — where he says public schools are “a disaster.” Most recently, Scott is a Senate sponsor of the CHOICE Act, which would empower parents to pick the best learning environment for disabled children.
“The power of choice in education to me is truly the power of freedom,” Scott said in opening remarks, reciting the impressive graduation rates and other statistics of the D.C. Opportunities Scholarship Program (DCOSP) for children from low-income families in Washington, D.C. His bill also would expand DCOSP, which in 10 years has provided a way out for 6,000 children.
Scott used to be “that kid” – the one who struggled in school. “Too often we write off these kids as at-risk kids who will never perform,” Scott said. “I would rather call the kids high-potential children with a great future.”
Lindsey M. Burke, Heritage’s Will Skillman fellow in education policy, noted that the first graduate of DCOSP now teaches English in Japan. Burke pointed to innovative school choice programs in such divergent states as Arizona and Louisiana.
Williams, who wrote about Scott’s advocacy of education reform and school choice in his column today for The Hill, singled out teachers unions in response to a question from the audience.
“Unions have a stranglehold in terms of minority parents,” he said. “I have long thought, why is it that minority parents aren’t out in the streets marching and screaming bloody murder given the state of public schools?”
The answer, he said, is that union leaders defuse the outrage of parents by making the issue about jobs for employees of government schools rather than about the quality of their children’s education.
Getting more parents involved in education decisions for their children, Scott agreed, is “part of the secret sauce of success.”
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.