The Conservative Constituency for Public Schools

In a very interesting article, Philip Bump discusses why rural districts, which typically trend conservative, are staunch supporters of public schools–and not particularly fond of privatization and voucher programs (boldface mine):

Republicans are once again passionate about their long-time love school vouchers, believing that the idea of “school choice” is a key to winning over minority voters. But you know who often doesn’t like school vouchers? Republicans from rural areas….

In statehouse battles over the past several years, it has been an alliance of Democrats and rural Republicans that have opposed expanding or implementing vouchers. For the same reason: vouchers pull resources from schools that need every dollar they can get after years of scaling back….

In 2012, Tea Party leaders in the state [Texas] renewed a “school choice” push that had stalled out several years before. The Texas Observer explains that failure: “The critical votes in past voucher fights have been rural Republicans, who don’t much care for vouchers because their districts don’t have private schools.”

…This is the same argument that urban parents often make, albeit less colorfully. Pulling resources from public schools is risky. Even if a school is faltering on objective and subjective measures, it’s hard to see how reducing resources will improve the school. Instead, vouchers let for-profit private and charter schools skim the more capable — and wealthier — students from the public school system, risking an exacerbation of the existing problem. In rural areas, with fewer private school options and, often, a stronger sense of community around the school system, those risks are more exposed.

Like we like to say on this blog, people have to like this crap. And they don’t like cuts to funding for their schools.

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