The embattled President Bush is making noises again
about possibly letting parents choose the best schools for their child. Of course, this is not a reason to believe it will happen at the federal level. For one thing, the President’s poll numbers are so low due to the Iraq war that it’s safe to say that his leverage is diminished. For another thing, the last time that the President negotiated his school bill, he abandoned school choice at the first sign of a fight. When all was said and done, the remaining school choice provisions were hollow and easily ignored by entrenched bureaucracies.
Finally, the chastened President Bush is no longer even fighting to give every parent the power—and every child the right—to choose the best educational option possible. Only children in schools that are undeniably failing would be given the right to take their business elsewhere. (Of course, bureaucrats have incentives, e.g, their budgets, to make sure that it’s incredibly hard for a school to be deemed failing.)
In short, education reformers should not rely on the federal government to actually achieve school choice. Perhaps the best the FedGov can do is to help set the agenda, change the conversation, and boost the morale of the rank-and-file supporters of school choice on the ground. The struggle for parents’ rights and children’s opportunities will be won from the grassroots with much toil and sweat, not through proclamations from the high offices of the centralized state.