How Republicans Turned “School Choice” Into a Losing Issue

C.unanimously, NH—Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was back in New Hampshire, his day was full of kinds of activities as befits a would-be president in the house of the first-in-the-nation primary. He had worked with the state’s GOP members and toured a local defense company in the state’s booming southern suburbs. Here in the state capital, Pompeo is working with another former Trump secretary, Betsy DeVos, at an event to promote a signature problem for the GOP: school choice.

The full house in a downtown theater awaited Pompeo’s arrival with Alice Cooper’s hymn “School’s Out” –The school is out forever, the school has been blown to pieces– play in the background. He took the stage to thunderous applause. “The founders understood how important strong families are,” said Pompeo with the campaign hairstyle in front of 250 mostly maskless participants. Parents should be able to send their children to a school that “teaches their children what to learn”. And children should be taught “real American history,” he said, “not the trash that is now being brought into the classroom”. The crowd went wild.

That Trump’s former foreign policy official would choose the school election as the election topic for his run in the White House is not too surprising. “Parental rights” have become a core part of the Trump-era GOP – an insulted protest call against the regulation of vaccines, masks in schools, or the delivery of content that parents find offensive, including material about race, slavery, and other so-called divisive concepts .

Florida Governor DeSantis, another likely 2024 candidate, has proven to be the most passionate crusader on behalf of this constituency. But this is the track that Pompeo claims for itself too. His new super PAC, Champion American ValuesHe paints a picture of an American family besieged by the rising tide of “socialist ideology”. The CAVPAC website is full of video images of Pompeo in a military setting, but the army he is now trying to mobilize is made up of families. “Parents, not the government, make decisions for children and themselves,” the website says.

First in the nation

The New Hampshire primacy isn’t the only draw for conservative presidential candidates these days. The GOP’s vision for public education is perhaps closer here than in any other state. This summer, the Granite State Republicans, backed by triple control of the state government and a burgeoning libertarian movement, launched a comprehensive “freedom of education” program. Parents who are withdrawing their children from public schools (or who have never sent them to public schools) are now entitled to $ 4,600 to spend on private religion classes, home schooling, or other educational expenses. Another new program is dedicated millions in pandemic aid to create for-profit micro-schools with the help of an Arizona company currently being investigated for fraud in this state. Just as anyone with a car can drive for Uber, anyone with a home can turn it into a “school” for five to ten students – no education or degree required.


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