A few months before the midterm elections, both parties have seized on education reform as a winning issue. The WSJ reports:
The GOP-controlled House is pushing a bipartisan bill aimed at expanding access to charter-school funding and making it easier to open new charter schools modeled after those that have been the most successful. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), long a proponent of broadening school choice, said in a memo Friday that the House would vote on the bill the week of May 5.Meantime, leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate plan to unveil their own education proposal later this spring focused on making it easier for families to afford college, as well as mitigating the burden of student-loan debt.“Too many students have been priced out of a college education, and one of the most important things we can do to improve the education system is to reverse that trend,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in a statement.
Though Democrats often worry that supporting charter schools undermines the agenda of teachers’ unions, which are among their most stalwart supporters, several congressional Democrats have come out in favor of them. Senator Mary Landrieu, the embattled Louisiana incumbent, has partnered with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to propose “legislation to boost the expansion of high-quality charter schools and help charter schools find suitable sites.”Charter schools are popular with the Republican base, and these proposals are a way for Republicans to appeal to low- and middle-income voters, whose children the charter schools would serve. The bill that would ease the burden of student loans is part of Democrats’ mission to “lift up the middle class,” as is their proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.Both parties are scrambling to find something other than health care to talk about (if for different reasons). If that’s what it takes to start the much-needed conversation about education reform, then political jockeying will have served a decent purpose.