GOP Hopes School Choice Position Attracts Minorities

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 10:11 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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In an effort to target minority voters, Republicans are amping up a party-wide initiative to tout school choice.

Though school choice – allowing the use of public funds for parents to send children to the schools of their choosing – has long been a GOP platform issue, Republicans think it should be a key talking point during midterm elections and beyond, Politico reports.

In early January, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, called out newly elected New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio for his plan to keep charter schools from co-locating in underused city schools, something former Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed.

"Just think of how many families will have their choices taken away if Mayor de Blasio pursues these policies," Cantor said during a speech at the Brookings Institution, The Washington Post reported.

The push to talk up school choice is part of a larger effort by the GOP to appeal to minorities and boost their numbers within the party.

In December 2012, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus announced the Growth and Opportunity Project, aimed at putting together a plan to grow the party, improve campaigns and make recommendations for "a path forward for the Republican Party to ensure success in winning more elections."

The committee is spearheaded by such notable Republicans as party strategist Henry Barbour and Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

"Calling for more charter schools, vouchers and tax credits to help parents pay private school tuition fits with the party's mantra that the government works best when it gets out of the way and lets the free market flourish," Politico notes. "But top strategists say it's more than that: talking about helping poor minority children softens the GOP's image and lets candidates offer a positive vision instead of forever going on the attack. And unlike immigration reform, school choice is politically safe; there's no chance of blowback from the tea party."

Highlighting the GOP's endorsement of and push for school choice will only highlight Democrats' position against it.

According to a 2013 Bloomberg News piece, the Obama administration "has been relentless in its ideological hostility to the idea, and seized on every possible pretext to express that hostility."

"The White House considers any government funding for private or parochial education, even indirect funding, to be a betrayal of the public schools."

Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal summarized the GOP position in a National Review story in November, discussing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice over his state's successful education-scholarship program, which mainly helps poor, black students.

"It shouldn't matter what race you are," he said. "I just want all of these kids to have the same opportunity and choice as others."

Jindal noted that minorities compose 90 percent of those helped by the scholarship program, and "100 percent are low-income, and many are stuck in failing schools."

"Look, these kids only have one education, so they should at least have the opportunity for a good one," he said.

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