There is probably no political issue in America that I feel more passionate about than education, and in particular the movement to take control of children's education from the state and public school establishment and place it back in the hands of the parents. It is an issue that is at the core of what I believe and my realization of how I felt about the issue has made very skeptical of Democratic Party leadership, which tends to be in the pockets of the teacher's unions.
I tend to think that the public school system itself should be done away with, not to be replaced by education only being available to those who are affluent, but instead replaced with public funds in the hands of all parents who will be able to place it in whatever school they want. In such a system, individuality will take hold as parents would be able to send their kids to schools that emphasize their children's interest. If the student is profficient at a skill, such as writing, they can go to a school that emphasizes or specializes in that skill, instead of being assigned a school by a beauracrat who has never met the child.
Charter schools are the first step to such a move, as are school vouchers another step to making sure that poor people are able to get a quality education. If you've never heard of or read about charter schools I recommend a recent article by Lee Culpepper, wherein he makes a creative comparison of charter schools to U.S. Marines.
The opposition to school choice is fierce and spouts nonsensical propoganda. I remember discussing this issue with a liberal friend of mine (nearly all of my friends are as liberal as they get) and he gave the argument that it violated "the seperation of church and state." I'm sure he meant "free practice of religion," as I don't recall the terms "seperation of church and state" in the Constitution. This is a terrible argument, as the First Amendment was clearly designed to make sure that anyone can practice their own faith, not to eradicate faith from the public square completely. This nonsense argument wasn't put into my friend's mind by himself. He recieved it from elsewhere, as the argument is one being circulated by teacher's unions, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the Left side of American politics. It has been these unions that have consistently blocked efforts to establish school vouchers.
The teacher's unions are really only practicing the human instinct of self-protection. American public schools are an increasingly large bureaucracy (made even more beauraucratic by moves to federalize the schools such as the well-intentioned No Child Left Behind) where children become statistics. As with any bureaucracy, it is hard to get rid of it and the bureaucrats naturally want to keep their jobs, even if progress means they'll lose them in exchange for the creation of others.
The 2008 presidential campaign has yet to go in overdrive, and I pray that the critical issue of public education is able to squeeze between illegal immigration and Iraq enough so that the problem will get the attention it deserves. I think it's a winning issue for Republicans, who can show voters that they really believe in change while the Left is for the most part interested in just throwing money at the same system we've had for decades.