Presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave his first major address on education yesterday. Blasting President Obama’s and Senate Democrats’ repeated efforts to shut down the District of Columbia’s enormously popular (at least with parents) voucher program, he called for expanding school choice.
If you’d like to read the speech, delivered at the Latino Coalition’s annual economic summit, you can find it here:
Educational choice remains a controversial topic in Utah, and my frequent favorable comments on the charter school movement invariably draw some readers’ ire. But I think Governor Romney may have picked a winning issue, especially with minority voters.
Consider this year’s applications to New York City charter schools, many of which serve poor and minority students. From the New York Times:
Applications to New York City charter schools continued to grow this year, the New York City Charter School Center reported on Tuesday.
An estimated 133,080 applications were submitted for 14,600 available seats in this spring’s random admissions lotteries, according to the center, a nonprofit group that supports charters.
Because many families apply to multiple schools, the center estimates there were really 67,500 individual applicants.
“Approximately 4.6 students applied for each available seat,” said James Merriman, the Charter Center’s chief executive officer. “I think last year there were five applications for each available seat. So we see there’s just a strong demand for charter schools across New York City.”
He estimated that 52,900 families were wait-listed citywide, up from 51,100 last year, based on the Charter Center’s annual survey of charter schools. The city’s Department of Education doesn’t collect this information directly.
Yes, I know that charter schools have mixed results, though I’d note again that successful charters outperform public schools, especially with disadvantaged kids – and, perhaps more significantly, that unsuccessful charters shut down because parents don’t chose them. Since I’m always inclined to give parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to choices about their own children, I think these numbers are significant. Obviously candidate Romney (who has an army of pollsters at his command) thinks so too.