Sunday, March 16, 2008

Charter Schools

One issue where libertarians might be surprised to find themselves in agreement with Obama is charter schools. Here's an exchange from a Feb. 12 interview with The Politico:

John Harris: Senator, we’ve got a question that goes right to that. The likely Republican nominee, Sen. McCain, has regularly stood up against his own party and has some real scars that he’s wearing because of it, when he thought it was in the national interest to do so. Name some issues where you’ve been willing to stand up against your party, and also take those scars?

Barack Obama: Well, look, we’ve talked about education. We actually had a roundtable here about what we need to do with the schools. I’ve consistently said, we need to support charter schools. I think it is important to experiment, by looking at how we can reward excellence in the classroom.

JH: Have teacher’s unions been an impediment to that kind of reform?

BO: What I will say is that they haven’t been thrilled with me talking about these kinds of issues. And my sister is a teacher, so I am a strong support of teachers, but I’m not going to be bound by just a certain way of talking about these things, in order for us to move forward on behalf of our kids. And I think a lot of teachers want to talk about how to continually improve performance. The broader point is that we’ve got to get beyond a lot of the traditional categories.

This isn't just a one-off comment. Obama has consistently supported charter schools and experimentation in education. The web site OnTheIssues.com notes that Obama supported charter schools as early as 1998, when he was in the Illinois legislature. He also supported charters in 2004, when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

John McCain also supports charter schools. But there's a very good chance that the next president will be dealing with a Congress controlled by Democrats. Any McCain charter plan would be a knock-down, drag-out fight that he probably wouldn't win. Obama, on the other hand, might be able to bring around his fellow Democrats on this issue.

Of course, the hardcore libertarian position on education is that it should be completely privatized. Obviously, this is not Obama's view. As I've mentioned before, he is not a libertarian. But his stance on the charter issue gives a clear indication of what he is: a politician who thinks that government programs are improved when they involve more choice and more involvement from the private sector. I don't know any libertarians who would argue that this wouldn't be an improvement over what we have now.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Hillary support charter schools too? Everyone supports charter schools, they just don't do anything about it.

MinnesotaDon said...

are you seriously saying that libertarians should vote for hillary, anonymous?