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Campaign 2012: How Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage

Obama biden duncanIt's not just because Arne Duncan played a role in the President's decision to come out in support of gay marriage that education-watchers should pay attention to the way politicians talk about the issue. The other, much more interesting reason, is that some Democratic politicians favor private school vouchers (with conditions, usually) but, as with same sex marriage, they often are loathe to say so out loud, knowing that the political consequences are high. They signal their support in various ways -- pretzeling themselves around rhetorically like Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanual did last week in San Francisco.  And yet they know it's increasingly difficult to oppose vouchers, and are waiting for the moment when the conditions are right (by necessity or reduced danger) to make their true feelings known.  

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That's pretty torturous logic, given the fact that marriage equality is the value least likely to be shared with social conservatives, while voucher support is the most likely to be shared with social conservatives.

At least in Florida, a good part of the support among state-legislature Democrats is fairly mundane: support for constituent businesses: a number of voucher-dependent schools are run in poor communities by African-American educators. See Larry Cuban's work in the late 1980s, early 1990s on key factors in political support for education policies...

I don't think the notion that vouchers will become politically palatable will stand up.

California voters have rejected them twice, resoundingly. Both times, there was huge money behind the campaigns. But even a low-information voter can spot the downsides: Non-means-tested vouchers mean a huge subsidy to the non-poor, and private schools can select and reject whom they wish, so vouchers only benefit the handpicked few. In addition, Milwaukee's longstanding voucher program has been a crashing failure, completely failing to budge student achievement and presenting a tempting opportunity to all manner of crooks and abusers.

Also, the private school community (the existing one, as opposed to the horde of crooks in Milwaukee who showed up in Milwaukee to take advantage by opening scam private schools) is largely not supportive of vouchers due to fears that they would bring new regulations that hamper their schools' practices.

During the last California voucher ballot measure, Prop. 38 in 2000, the campaign's primary sponsor, Silicon Valley mogul Tim Draper, said he didn't expect his own kids' private school to accept voucher students.

I don't think I understand which prominent Democratic officials are showing signs of being secret voucher supporters (other than Emanual, who I haven't been following). With Obama and same-sex marriage, the evidence was pretty obvious to me: he explicitly favored legalizing such marriages in 1996 and had talked about "evolving" back to that position. But what's the evidence he (or anybody else) is secretly pro-voucher (as opposed to just pro-equivocation, which most politicians are)?

Paul is correct. I never recall Obama being anything short of transparent about his support of same-sex marriage.

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