U.S. Senator Mark Warner likes to position himself as the consummate middle man — not one, says he of himself, of either extreme. We’re not so sure of that. After all, the man couldn’t bring himself to sign the partial birth abortion law when he was governor. The General Assembly, with broad bipartisan support, overrode him on it. Supporting the extreme brutality of partial birth abortion isn’t exactly a middle of the road position.
However, Virginia’s new junior senator did show some good policy sense as well a bit of bravery in bucking the majority of his party on March 10. He was one of only two Democrats who voted to keep Washington, D.C.’s school choice law from expiring (see the Club For Growth here). We applaud him for that. (West Virginia’s Robert Byrd was the other Democrat and Connecticut’s independent, Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted to extend the law.) Nevertheless, the amendment failed. Unless something changes, D.C. school children, who have vastly improved their test scores and other measurements of success over the last several years because of the school choice law, will revert to the old, monopolistic, failed public school paradigm — Go to school where you’re told young man and young lady!
Of course, modern American liberalism claims to be for change, moving forward, progress, and not returning to the “old, backward ways” that conservatism supposedly represents. But educational choice and the competition it fosters among schools is change from the old ways; it has moved D.C. students forward in their educational development; and, accordingly, they have made progress in their lives. Allowing school choice to die in D.C. is a return to the old ways of the ineffective, inefficient education monopoly — unless, of course, you are extremely wealthy and can afford the suburban D.C. prep schools. So, which philosophy represents the little guy?
Everyone agrees education is one of the pillars in leading a productive life. Yet some in Congress apparently don’t want disadvantaged students to get that leg up, despite the popularity of school choice among D.C.’s parents, politicians and students.
President Obama campaigned in favor of school choice while sending his children to elite private schools. It remains to be seen whether he will try to rectify this sad turn of legislative events. His endeavors to exert government control over currently free enterprises is not a good omen for fostering competition in government run schools. However, at least Mark Warner understood. Although we may disagree with him on many other issues, at least on this one, he deserves extra credit.