It took masks in schools for Democrats to support school choice

Despite growing evidence over the years that a one-size-fits-all education system cannot — and does not — meet the needs of all students, Democratic leaders have largely opposed efforts to expand educational opportunity and give families more school options.

But a recent national poll by Echelon Insights in August found that 76 percent of Democratic voters “support allowing families to take their child’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to a private or home school if their public school does not require universal masking.” Overall, 79 percent of respondents with an opinion supported this school choice proposal, with Democrats favoring it more than Republicans (82 percent and 78 percent, respectively).

Another poll from RealClear Opinion Research found support for school choice among Democrats during COVID-19 increased from 59 percent (April 2020) to 70 percent (June 2021).

“The battles over school reopenings, masking and curriculum have revealed the main problem with the one-size-fits-all public school system,” writes Reason Foundation’s Corey DeAngelis in the Wall Street Journal. “Many Republicans supported school choice well before 2020. But Democratic voters are now also realizing that uniform school systems won’t always work in their favor.”

Ikhlas Saleem, a writer at Project Forever Free, hopes that post-COVID “Democrats can still hold on to the idea that school choice is a no-brainer.”

Support for school choice and funding students over systems is also highest among voters of color. According to a poll conducted by Echelon Insights in May, 69 percent of black voters, 68 percent of Asian voters, 67 percent of Hispanic voters, and 64 percent of white voters support giving parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school that best serves their needs. Sixty-six percent of black voters, 58 percent of Hispanic voters, 55 percent of Asian voters and 52 percent of white voters support parents directing federal education aid.

Will Democratic leadership listen to their constituents or will they continue to put special interests such as the teachers’ unions above the needs of students and wishes of their families?