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Teaching Profession

New Generation of Democrats Embraces School Choice

August 26, 2008 1 min read

If you were invited to an event promoting school choice to be held at a country club, who would you guess the audience would be?

a.) white Republicans

or

b.) a bipartisan, multi-racial group

Today, in Denver, the answer was b.

At a breakfast supporting efforts to expand students’ ability to enroll in charter and other public schools, Colorado state Senate President Peter C. Groff explained that the demographics of school choice are changing.

African-American policymakers under the age of 50 are no longer opposing school choice simply because they’re following the lead of their allies on other issues—mainly teacher unions, said Groff, 45, who is black.

“This is a generation that doesn’t look at race first, but policy first,” said Groff, 45, a Democrat. “It’s not looking at party first, but the best idea first.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the event’s main speaker, said charter schools in his New Jersey city are successful, but they don’t have enough seats to fill demand.

Many Newark families “break the law, literally,” said Booker, a Democrat. “They are faking addresses and sneaking [their children] into schools” in neighboring towns. School officials there investigate students and kick out those who live in Newark, charging their families tuition for the time they were enrolled.

“This is not the America I dream of,” Booker said.

The shift in attitudes isn’t only happening among blacks under 50, Groff said in an interview.

Groff’s father is a retired Denver public school teacher. Groff said he and his father debate school choice. “He’s coming along slowly,” Groff said. “Since he’s retired, he’s starting to say: ‘Now I can see why you want to have some of this flexibility.’”

Today’s event in a banquet room of the Denver Country Club was sponsored by the Alliance for Choice in Education, a group that provides scholarships for low-income Denver students to attend private K-12 schools. Groff and Booker didn’t endorse using public money to pay private school costs, however.

--David J. Hoff

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