Boehner calls for education as a "civil rights" issue

The outgoing Speaker himself put out a weekly address for the GOP this morning and in it he decides to pivot the current party focus back to the subject of education. While it’s certainly a valid topic in any election, it’s one which the Democrats are wrestling with a lot more than the Republicans. Boehner’s focus, however, seems a bit at odds with the key talking point he’s putting forward. Calling for a new approach to fixing our failing schools, he suggests making education The Civil Right of the 21st Century. Our friend Andrew Malcolm has the full details over at, but here’s the intro with the key message.

As parents – as Americans – we want nothing more than to see our kids go to the best schools. In my view, education ought to be the civil right of the 21st century.

This week, the people’s House took another step towards fulfilling that vital goal.

You see, in 2003, a small group of Republicans and Democrats came together to create something called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

It is the only program in America where the federal government allows low-income families to choose the schools that are best for their kids.

The program has truly made a difference. All told, some 6,100 students have gone to better schools using these scholarships. Last spring, 90 percent of 12th graders in the program graduated. That’s much higher than the city’s average graduation rate.

And of the 1,400 students this year, some 87 percent would otherwise be at a school that the government has identified as in need of improvement. These are the kind of results parents dream of for their kids.

You can listen to the audio of the address here, or watch the video below.

The Speaker is, of course, talking about the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program which only applies to the nation’s capital, but this is a winning subject for the GOP which could be applied almost anywhere in the nation. The entire idea of school choice is one of the few places where you could drive large numbers of otherwise Democrat leaning voters away from their party’s core machinery. The Dems are funded by the unions with a great deal of the support coming from the teachers unions. They hate the idea of school choice and charter schools because it gives parents a chance to pull their kids out of failing public schools with dodgy teachers and put them into a program where they might get a leg up in the race to get into a good college or technical school and start a successful career. As the public schools weaken, so too does the funding for the unions and their grip on elections. (Which is, let’s face it, the primary raison d’etre for the teachers unions anyway.)

With that in mind, it’s a fine idea for the Speaker to not only push for the renewal of the program, but to encourage state legislatures to adopt similar systems around the country. The only quibble I have with this delivery is the idea of conflating education with the entire concept of civil rights. Education isn’t a right so much as a very common and necessary service, much the same as health care. If anything, it’s more of an infrastructure question than one of civil rights. The further you go along the educational path, the more options there will be available. Some will be of higher quality than others and some will cost more or less than their competitors. That’s just the nature of the world. There should also be some aspects of a meritocracy when it comes to higher education because what you get out of it should depend, at least in part on what you put into it.

When you start tacking on the tag of “civil rights” to an education question it’s an invitation for the Democrats to declare it a fundamental human right and therefore make it “free” for everyone. And we all know what the word “free” means when it’s spoken in the progressive wing. The taxpayers foot the bill for even more massive government management of something they are not at all good at and you get yourself an even higher mountain of debt in the bargain.