If Lynn Swann wins in Pennsylvania — a state that was pretty much as close as media-darling Ohio was and a state that is pretty much a must-win for Democrats in presidential politics — the school choice issue will be a real nightmare for Democrats come ’08 because there are prominent pro-voucher urban Democrats in Philly who will presumably be at odds with the party’s nominee on a big issue. It’s one thing to be at odds when it’s not a major issue and another when a state’s governor can inject it into the race to drive a wedge in the Democratic base.
Seems like potential ’08 candidates can get ahead of this now by making the issue accountability not choice by supporting public school choice and charter schools consequently taking the issue of “choice” itself off the table. If Democrats are for choice and accountability and Republicans are just for choice that’s a debate Democrats win. But if it’s choice v. no choice that’s a pretty lousy place to be in American politics. Failing to get ahead of this means it could get messy as Democrats gets squeezed between fed-up minority parents and the teachers’ unions and continue to needlessly take a beating for it. Same dynamic in Ohio, too, where there is already a big state voucher program ($) further complicating things.*
Special Bonus: Politics aside, isn’t giving parents more choice in a key public sector service a good way to build support for it anyway?
*I still can’t figure out why Gwen Ifill didn’t ask a question about Cleveland vouchers in the Cleveland VP debate. Could have gone to public funding for religious activities, accountability for low-performing schools, immediate help for parents, or just the issue of school choice. Regardless, would have been a hell of a lot more interesting and potentially revealing from both candidates than the predictable back and forth about NCLB funding…