Rand Paul and David Axelrod on School Choice
On Tuesday, Obama’s former advisor David Axelrod asked Sen. Rand Paul questions about school choice, and whether national standards were necessary. The Democrat and the Republican met at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, Axelrod’s program for political science students.
Real Clear Politics has a video of the hour-long question and answer session [which included other topics like surveillance of private data and immigration policy].
Paul was in Chicago to learn more about school choice. He visited a Catholic all girls’ high school that takes vouchers from low income families. An article describing a voucher student’s experience at Josephinum Academy shows:
The average family income is $32,000, and Jailyn is among the 74 percent of the student body who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. Tuition is priced at $4,900 to attract students who otherwise wouldn't have access to many educational opportunities. And 95 percent of the student body — including Jailyn — receives additional financial aid.
Paul talked about the different kinds of educational options today. He said “...competition would make our schools better. I believe we need more innovation. One of the schools they had today was a charter school, a virtual charter school...I’m fascinated with Khan Academy...more freedom of choice by parents...need less rigidity.”
After Paul went over the positives about vouchers, charters and competition, Axelrod, in his disarming Eeyore-like attitude, asked Paul about national standards. Axelrod said, “Who should set standards?” Paul ended up not answering the question.
Axelrod asked a second time: “But you consider it a national problem? The performance of our schools?..and doesn’t it make sense then to set standards of some sort that are uniform enough so that kids from state to state have to meet those standards?”
Paul is on record as having signed a letter initiated by Sen. Chuck Grassley that seeks to keep funds in the Department of Education from going towards creation and implementation of Common Core.
But Paul continued to ignore the question, instead bringing up the Malcolm Gladwell book entitled Outliers which says “the only thing absolutely correlating with improving educational scores is a longer school day and school year. He [Gladwell] says nothing else correlates; class size doesn’t correlate, says money doesn’t really correlate.”
By the end of this part of the discussion, neither Paul nor Axelrod had used the term “common core standards.”
If Axelrod was baiting Paul on this hot button topic, it didn’t work. Paul simply went back to his talking points that school governance should happen at the local level, and that his suggestion for the federal Department of Education would be to “cut ‘em out of the loop. I don’t think you’d notice if the whole department was gone tomorrow.”
Ann Kane is Editor of Watchdog Wire North Carolina. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.