Wednesday, March 16, 2016

GOP capitulation on ESAs is bad policy, bad politics

"Having succeeded enough to win elections, one would assume Oklahoma state lawmakers at least have decent political judgment," The Oklahoman notes today ("Conservative policy takes a hit with Oklahoma ESA decision"). "But their recent job performance provides ample evidence to the contrary."
Last week's Republican capitulation on education savings accounts is exhibit A. With an ESA, parents are given a share of the per-pupil funding the state already allocates to educate their child for uses that include private school. It's a classically conservative, free-market idea whose benefit would be greatest for children currently trapped in Oklahoma's worst schools, particularly low-income children. Officials at a private school serving homeless children have said ESAs would allow them to help many more needy youth. 
SoonerPoll found 56.3 percent of likely voting Oklahomans support ESAs; only 26.8 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, 63 percent support ESAs, as do 45 percent of Democrats. Those findings are in line with numerous polls conducted on the issue. 
So supporting ESAs could help Republicans win primary races and attract support from a sizable number of Democrats in a general election. ESA opponents are a distinct minority substantially composed of people who never vote Republican and never will (such as the most rabid teacher union members and their allies). 
Yet last week, Republican lawmakers sided with the 26.8 percent and poked a finger in the eye of the strong majority.

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