People voted for more school choice. Charters a big winner!
The School-Choice Election Wave
Even Democrats are adapting to new political realities.
By Corey DeAngelis, WSJ
Nov. 10, 2022 1:45 pm ET
There may not have been a red wave or a blue wave, but there was a nationwide school-choice wave.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the biggest victory of the night for parents. In 2018 William Mattox of the James Madison Institute argued in these pages that “unexpected support from minority women,” whom he dubbed “school-choice moms,” accounted for his narrow victory that year. On Tuesday Mr. DeSantis won by more than 19 points overall and by 11 points in Miami-Dade, a county that favored Joe Biden by 7 points in 2020.
About three-fourths of Miami-Dade students are enrolled in choice programs, but Democrat Charlie Crist foolishly went all in for the public-school monopoly and picked the president of Miami’s United Teachers of Dade as his running mate.
Mr. DeSantis outperformed Mr. Crist by 13 points with Latino voters, according to exit polls (Mr. Biden won the Florida Latino vote by 7 in 2020), and 38% of students using the state’s largest private-school choice program are Hispanic. All six school-board candidates endorsed by Mr. DeSantis won their runoffs Tuesday. In all, 24 of 30 candidates he endorsed won this year.
Florida wasn’t the only bright spot. As this is written, 76% of candidates supported by my organization appear to have won. Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Bill Lee of Tennessee and Greg Abbott of Texas all blew out their opponents after making school choice a centerpiece of their campaigns.
Mr. Stitt faced a barrage of attacks from dark-money groups for his support for school choice, yet he won by nearly 14 points—a margin larger than his 2018 win. As the Oklahoman newspaper noted, his Democratic opponent, Joy Hofmeister, “made opposition to vouchers a central part of her campaign, claiming it would be a ‘rural school killer.’ ” Ryan Walters, elected Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction by more than 13 points, said on election night that “we are going to do more than any other state in the country to empower parents.”
Unlike Mr. Crist, some Democrats learned something from Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 victory in Virginia. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois both endorsed private-school choice less than two months before the election and came out victorious. Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York also won after she publicly supported—for the first time—eliminating the cap on New York City charter schools.
Skeptics have noted in these pages that these Democrats flipped on school choice for political expediency. Does it matter? If candidates for governor who were already up in the polls felt compelled to switch their stances on school choice right before the election, that’s good news regardless of their motives, and voters should hold them to account for their new positions.
After Tuesday night, it’s clear that for both parties, it is now becoming politically profitable to support education freedom. That’s because parents have woken up. For far too long in K-12 education, the only groups that commanded politicians’ attention were unions representing the employees in the system. Now the kids have a union of their own: their parents.
Mr. DeAngelis is a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children.