Peter Greene: Are Conservative Culture Warriors At Odds With School Choice?
As the culture debates heat up, it becomes increasingly clear that some who have argued for school choice have other priorities in mind.
Jay Greene at the Heritage Foundation recently argued that the school choice movement should embrace the culture wars, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that culture warriors are at odds with some basic tenets of market-driven school choice.
Take the case of Essence Preparatory, a charter school that was all set to launch in San Antonio. The charter was set to implement a culturally sensitive program, and the Texas Education Agency approved it 11-3. But the next day there was pushback, and the school was informed it could not open until it had scrubbed all references to Ibram X. Kendi’s work from its school and paperwork and shown that it would not be in violation of HB 3979, the Texas gag law intended to ban various forms and offshoots of critical race theory. The legislator who stopped spearheaded both HB 3979 and the pushback was Rep. Steve Toth. This is also Steve Toth, speaking last year against an amendment to another bill that would have stifled school choice in Texas:
Parents desire choice. Parents desire to make that decision as to whether or not the educational experience their child is receiving is effective or not. Every parent deserves that choice.
So every parent deserves that choice—unless that parent wants to choose an anti-racism, Kendi-quoting, “CRT” pitching, community activism-promoting school. That choice, apparently, no parent deserves.
HB 3979 is not unusual in its reach. Consider bills like the Tennessee version of Don’t Say Gay (HB 0800) or race-related gag bills and laws like Indiana’s SB 415—these bills apply to public schools and to charter schools as well. Conservative culture warriors have decided that some choices should be forbidden to parents.
Supporters of a free market driven school choice model may yet voice their objections, declaring that the market should be allowed to decide, but when it comes to conservative culture war concerns, some choice fans seem unwilling to trust the market (in the same way that some no longer trust elections). Or, perhaps, for some, choice was never the point, but instead the goal is to dismantle the public school system and replace it with a system aligned with certain far right values; a way, as some conservatives have argued, to take back the school system. Then parents can have choices—but only the properly conservative ones.