Nikki Haley hints at a 2024 education playbook for Republicans.
How will Democrats respond?
Last week, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley delivered a speech in Charleston announcing her presidential campaign. At the end of her speech, she briefly addressed education:
“In the America I see, every child gets a world-class education, because every parent gets to pick their child’s school. ::applause:: And no politician will be able to close those schools ever again.”
School choice and voucher programs have long been Republican education policy priorities. In contrast, Democrats have typically defended the traditional public school system — with the political support of teachers’ unions — and limited their support for “choice” to charter schools, many of which are publicly funded and sometimes even share buildings with traditional public schools.
Enter the coronavirus pandemic: U.S. public schools in major cities were closed for longer than schools in some South American mega-cities. Unlike in European countries where center-left governments never closed public schools or reopened them in spring and fall 2020, major U.S. cities — with the notable exception of Miami-Dade — largely kept public schools closed until the end of 2020 or spring 2021. At the same time, private and religious schools generally reopened with normalcy in fall 2020 — some prominent Democrats even sent their children back to these private schools while public schools remained shut.
Privately, I’ve had a number of parents identifying as Democrats or independents tell me that they moved their children to religious, private, or charter schools during the pandemic in order to provide their children with classroom learning or relief from strict Covid measures. Might some of these parents find it appealing for the government to start helping them pay their private or religious school tuition?
The leading non-Trump front-runner, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has used similar language to Haley when discussing pandemic school closures:
“The kids that are the most impacted and the families that are the most impacted are the low-income, blue collar middle class kids,” DeSantis said. “The wealthy sons and daughters of elected officials and other powerful people, they’re sending their kids in person in private schools but they’re not affording that right to the folks that need to go to the public school system.”