To Promote School Choice, Acknowledge the Culture War 

by James D. Paul

Historically, education reform organizations have been skittish about anything that smacks of culture war politics. School choice organizations, in particular, seem unwilling to highlight cultural debates on classroom activism, curriculum transparency, and other controversies related to parental control in education.

A new report from EFI & The Heritage Foundation urges school choice advocates to take a different approach: Acknowledge these cultural debates and promote school choice as a solution that can satisfy all parents—regardless of where they stand on controversial issues.

Using nationally representative survey data, authors James Paul and Jay Greene demonstrate that Americans who are most skeptical about social justice ideology in public schools are the same people most likely to support school choice.

Overall, most respondents are deeply skeptical about woke perspectives in public schools—namely that teachers should promote critical race theory, the 1619 Project, and teach students that America is a bad place for racial minorities to thrive.

Roughly one-fifth of respondents are unsure about these cultural debates, in part because the education reform movement has declined to inform people about them. Notably, those respondents who indicate they are unsure about cultural issues tend to also oppose school choice.

If education reform groups emphasized cultural problems in public schools and promoted school choice as a solution—one that could benefit people on all sides of the cultural debate—the constituency for choice would increase.

Conventional wisdom says that the culture war is bad for school choice advocates. But this report suggests something different. In fact, culture war politics could be helpful for promoting educational freedom.

School choice advocates are armed with an obvious, ready-made solution to cultural debates. They should not squander the opportunity to use it.

Download the full report here.