Today, redefinED host John Kirtley appears on the St. Petersburg Times’ education blog, the Gradebook, with an essay that showcases the increasing bipartisanship evident in providing school choice for underprivileged students. “For far too long, the important debate over whether we should provide private learning options for low-income schoolchildren has been a source of friction in education circles and partisan combat in political quarters,” Kirtley writes. “But when Oprah Winfrey spotlights the desperate needs of these children and some of the private schools that are turning around their lives, we can safely conclude this issue is now mainstream.”
Kirtley is the chairman of Step Up For Students, a nonprofit group that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students, and he’s currently serving on the education transition team for Florida’s Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott. In Florida, Republicans control the governor’s mansion and the Legislature, and their voices once stood apart from Democrats in the support over school choice. But times have changed, and now, as Kirtley points out, nearly half the Democrats and the majority of the legislative Black Caucus in Florida support the tax credit scholarship.
Florida isn’t alone. Kirtley points to examples in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Mexico where the political fault lines have shifted, and he concludes with two quotes from different political leaders that indicate how far the debate has advanced.
The first quote comes from Florida’s newly elected Republican governor:
I want to create an education program that will allow parents to get creative in how to meet the distinctive needs of their children. I do not believe every child should be forced into just one method of being educated if that method is not working.
The second comes from President Obama:
Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform. … And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.