Arizona Corporate Tax Credit Prevails in Court

March 12, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

From the Institute for Justice:

Victory for School Choice: Arizona Court of Appeals Declares  Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program Constitutional

Arlington, Va.-The Arizona Court of Appeals today declared that tax credit programs that fund tuition scholarships for low- and middle-income children to attend private schools “pass constitutional muster.”  The decision follows the Arizona Supreme Court‘s 1999 decision in Kotterman v. Killian, which upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s
Individual Tax Credit Scholarship Program from an identical legal attack.  

“Today’s real winners are the families who rely on Arizona’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program to attend high-performing private schools tailored to meet their children’s unique educational needs,” declared Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justices Arizona Chapter.  “This decision affirms that the state and federal constitutions protect the right of parents, not bureaucrats, to make the educational decisions that will forever impact their children’s lives.” 

Passed in 2006, Arizona’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program encourages private companies to donate to charitable organizations that provide scholarships to low- and moderate-income families to attend private schools.  Companies receive a tax credit for their donations.  In 2008, the corporate contribution limit was capped
at $14.4 million.  That amount will increase by 20 percent in 2009. According to the most recent figures from the Arizona Department of Revenue, in 2007, funds donated to scholarship organizations enabled
1,947 students to attend 156 private schools. 

The scholarships are available only to children who transfer from a public to a private school, or those entering kindergarten.  With the average corporate scholarship totaling just under $2,400, the state saves money every time a child previously enrolled in a public school chooses to attend a private school.  

“The taxpayers of Arizona also won today because every time a child transfers from a public school to a private school, the state saves thousands of dollars that would otherwise have been used to pay for that child’s education in a public school,” Keller continued.  “The program is constitutional, and it is sound public policy.  It is time for the ACLU to drop its spurious legal claims.”

Judge Donn Kessler filed a dissent in the case suggesting that the program violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Kessler’s reasoning misapplies the U.S. Supreme Court‘s 2002 decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which upheld a state-funded voucher program for low-income children in Cleveland.  

IJ, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, is currently defending Arizona’s state-funded scholarship programs for children with disabilities and children in foster care, as well as Arizona’s individual tax credit scholarship program, and helped secure the Kotterman victory for school choice.  The Institute also helped win
a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court for school choice in Cleveland and successfully defended vouchers in Milwaukee and tax credits in Illinois.

The Rhetorical Rights and Wrongs of the Obama Speech

March 11, 2009

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I agree with both Jay and Greg about Obama’s speech- first, that it is symbolically important. The endorsement of merit pay and charter schools is very encouraging. Jay is correct however to ask…

There are a couple of items in the President’s speech, however, that I think he’s off base on. For instance, the idea that everyone needs to attend college. In the Carnegie Foundation’s publication Change, Paul Barton wrote that the notion that the U.S. has a dire need for an ever increasing number of college graduates is a myth. “Confusion about the demand for college graduates runs throughout discussions of national workforce needs,” Barton wrote.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, only 29 percent of all jobs actually required a degree in 2004. The Bureau projects that of the top ten occupations with the largest growth from 2004 to 2014, seventy percent won’t require a college education.

Interestingly, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Longitudinal Study reports that 40 percent of its sample attained a two- or four-year degree or higher. Therefore, many people with college degrees have jobs that don’t require them. So it really might be true when your cabbie says he has a Ph.D.

Barton’s clear-eyed presentation of the data reveals a job market far more complex than simply an unmet demand for college-educated job applicants. For example, proponents of greater higher education funding often point to an increasing wage gap between the college educated and those who aren’t.

Barton, however, notes that the wage gap is due largely to the falling earnings of high-school graduates and dropouts rather than to higher earnings for college graduates.

Second, the President’s call for the expansion of preschool programs isn’t supported by the weight of empirical evidence, which generally show small academic gains that quickly fade out.

Overall, however, it was a better speech than I could have dared hope for, demonstrating at least a rhetorical independence from the reactionary forces of the status-quo. Let’s see if the President gets around to backing his fine words with actual reform.

Symbols Matter

March 11, 2009


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jay points out that the president’s speech on education yesterday doesn’t resemble his legislative agenda. But it’s worse than that. There are things Obama could do to promose these good reform ideas even without legislation or budget changes, but won’t.

He calls on states to lift their charter caps. But what does he plan to do about charter caps? Even without extending federal authority over the states on charter policy, there’s plenty he could do, as Jay Matthews points out:

Will the Obama Education Department prepare and publicize a list of all the charter school cap laws in the country? Will Duncan call the governors, and legislators and school boards responsible for them and ask them to remove those restrictions on new charters, and find a way to get rid of bad charters?

Is the pope Muslim?

So on pretty much all fronts, the president’s “plan” for education is just symbolism.

But you know what? Symbols matter! The president is using his position in the spotlight to endorse choice and competition (as he did during the campaign) and rewards for performance, the two indispensable principles of sound educational reform. Even if he’s only doing it because Democratic constituencies other than the education unions expect it, it matters that the president has chosen to align himself with those constituencies rather than the unions. He could easily have taken the old line and kowtowed to the unions. But he didn’t, and that counts for something. So let’s give the president his due.

Now if only he had stopped his pals in Congress (who look an awful lot like his bosses these days) from kowtowing to the unions on vouchers.

Pay No Attention To My Legislative Agenda

March 11, 2009

President Obama gave a great speech yesterday in which he strongly endorsed charter schools and merit pay.  He also emphasized the need to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms and to expand access to pre-school.

The problem is that these words bear almost no resemblance to the education priorities contained in Obama’s legislative agenda.  This is really strange.  I’m accustomed to presidents exaggerating the attractiveness of their proposed policies.  But Obama is the first president that I can think of who pushes the attractiveness of policies that he is hardly pursuing in legislation while concealing the bulk of his actual efforts.

I’ve previously written about how the bulk of Obama’s increased education spending goes to status quo programs, such as Title I, special ed, Pell Grants, school construction, and generally holding localities harmless against losses in tax revenue.  Almost no money has been devoted to charter schools, merit pay, efforts to remove ineffective teachers, and even pre-school (which received only $4 billion of the $800 billion stimulus package, and most of that was for propping up status quo Head Start programs).  All of the great (and not so great) education policies that Obama talks about are almost completely absent in legislation that he has backed.  And he hardly says a peep about all of the education policies that he does throw money at. 

Obama just distracts us from his actual efforts with pretty words about things that he is hardly doing.  Of course, the most obvious thing he was distracting us from with his speech yesterday was the Senate vote to begin the execution of the DC voucher program.  He didn’t say a word about yesterday’s actions, knowing that all of the headlines would be about the reforms he did endorse (but has done almost nothing to actually enact).

WSJ Video on DC Vouchers

March 11, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Check it out.

But I Won’t Do That

March 10, 2009

There’s an awful Meatloaf song where he declares that he would do anything for love… but he won’t do that.  It’s isn’t entirely clear what Mr. Loaf (as the New York Times calls him) won’t do for love.  But it is clear that there is something he will not do even though he has just declared that he would do anything

This incoherent, cheesy awfulness reminds me of the argument that we should support charters but oppose vouchers.  I’m sure that’s what you were thinking as well.  It’s like they would do anything for choice… but they won’t do that.

If one supports the view that expanding choice and competition help students who choose and either helps or does no harm to traditional public schools, why limit that support to charter schools?  I know people say that at least charters are still public schools, but why exactly does that matter?  There is no magic pixie dust in the word “public” that makes things good or serve the public interest.  If we add the word “public” to vouchers so that we now call them “public vouchers” does that make them acceptable to pro-charter/anti-voucher folks?

I know that some suggest the important part of charters being “public” is that they can be regulated so as to assure public goals.  But whatever regulations are really necessary for public goals can be attached as a condition to vouchers as easily as to charters.  If we think teachers need to have certain credentials or students have to take certain tests, that can be (and has been) required of voucher-receiving private schools.  It’s not clear what about the publicness of charter schools, or even traditional public schools, make them better suited to serving the public good or being regulated for that purpose.

I suspect that some of the real rationale behind supporting charters but opposing vouchers is an unstated uneasiness with vouchers supporting students in religious schools.  But the U.S. Supreme Court has settled this issue as a matter of constitutional law.  And if the objection is one of desirable public policy, why is there near universal support for vouchers (Pell Grants) to attend BYU or Baylor but not St. Thomas Aquinas High School? 

This leads me to suspect that the real REAL reason for folks supporting charters but opposing vouchers is the political desire to appear moderate regardless of how incoherent and irrational it is.  Today President Obama is going to tout his support for charter schools.  And he’s going to tout his support for Pell Grants.  But he will not support vouchers.  Holding all of these positions make no logical sense, but they are thought to have some political appeal. 

I guess I understand why politicians take these incoherent positions, but why do people in academia, think tanks, and the blogoshpere do this?  Unlike politicians we don’t have to lie or make false distinctions for a living.  So I challenge anyone to explain exactly why, other than for the political advantage of triangulation, people should support charters but oppose vouchers.

My bet is that any argument will resemble the “look at the silly monkey” argument.  It’s even more powerful than the Chewbacca defense because it makes your head explode.

Creative Destruction in Public Schooling

March 9, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Center for Education Reform released The Accountability Report – Charter Schools today. Lots of interesting information about the state of the charter schooling movement, including state by state information. For example, my state of Arizona has 510 charter schools operating, but since the charter law passed here in 1994, 96 Arizona charter schools have closed.

I suspect that some of those 96 schools never actually opened, but that is okay. Let’s face it, there are district schools we wish we had never had open as well, based on their long track records of abysmal test scores.

One out of five new school closing may not be the cold howling wind of the market for restaurants, but it is something. Creative destruction and competition for students provides focus, which helps to explain why 9 out of the top 10 public high schools, as ranked by their reading scores, in the greater Phoenix area are charter schools. Check it out for yourself here.

Plenty of interesting information in the report, well worth a look.

UPDATE: Kara Hornung Kerwin of CER, the first and only woman to ever have a bachlorette party thrown on her behalf by a group of education policy geeks in Jackson Hole Wyoming, wrote me to say that in fact all 96 of those schools opened and closed. The school market is a bit more savage than I thought.

Notice the titles here and with the recent Fordham Report on standardized testing. The Accountability Report-Charter Schools vs. The Accountability Illusion.

Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

Get Lost – For the Defense

March 7, 2009


“On the charge of ruining a really cool show, how do you plead?”

(Guest post by . . .

Greg Forster for the defense, your honor.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, last week District Attorney Greene read you a very serious and sobering indictment. There is no denying that the charges, if proved, would justify a severe sentence against my client, the television program Lost. But during the forthcoming trial I intend to show you that the prosecutor cannot prove his charges.

The charge, in a nutshell, is this: that with the resurrection of John Locke, my client has 1) irreversably committed itself to containing “fantasy” elements as well as “sci-fi” elements, and 2) that this means the rules of the story’s narrative world are not stable but subject to arbitrary interference, which ruins the drama.

Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no denying the first element of the prosecutor’s theory of the crime. With Locke’s resurrection, my client is irreversably committed to having one foot in the fantasy genre as well as one foot in the sci-fi genre. The possibility that the show might end up with both feet on the sci-fi side of the divide is effectively foreclosed.

And it is also true that stable narrative rules are indispensable to good drama. Drama depends on moral agency, moral agency depends on choice, choice depends on actions having consequences, and actions having consequences depends on events obeying stable rules. In a universe where events were arbitrary, I couldn’t possibly make choices – I would have no way to connect my actions to any consequences. For all intents and purposes, there would be no alternatives to choose from.

But ladies and gentlemen, the prosecutor is wrong – “just plain wrong,” as he himself might put it – to assert that fantasy fiction, which is defined in the relevant statute as fiction containing supernatural elements, must necessarily have narrative rules that are unstable or subject to arbitrary interference.

Not only is this not true, ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your consideration that sci-fi fiction has historically been more guilty than fantasy fiction of presenting us with narrative worlds that have unstable or arbitrarily broken rules. Thus, I submit that when my client, having placed one foot firmly in the sci-fi camp, proceeds to place the other foot firmly in the fantasy camp, it increases rather than decreases the probability that we will ultimately get a narrative universe with stable rules.

No doubt there is much fantasy fiction that lacks stable narrative rules. You will all be familiar with the Harry Potter series, for instance.

But is there not also much fantasy fiction with admirably stable narrative rules? Whatever you may think of the Lord of the Rings, nobody accuses it of taking place in an insufficiently structured narrative universe.

As you will see when we introduce LOTR into evidence during the forthcoming trial, the text of the books is quite clear that Gandalf was not simply in a coma on the mountaintop, but died there, and “returned from death.” Did this leave anyone with the feeling that henceforward anything was possible and there were no rules in the LOTR universe? Was it not just the opposite, ladies and gentlemen – that the resurrection of Gandalf was the highest and most sublime manifestation of the story’s underlying narrative unity? It would be one thing if anyone, under any circumstances, could come back from the dead. But Gandalf’s return from the dead was not like that. It was a unique event, one that could only have happened to that particular character – and for a reason that was not arbitrary, but was clearly an integral part of the narrative universe. And his death and resurrection were connected to a series of consequences – connections which again were an organic part of the narrative.

One may summarzie the case by saying that Gandalf would not be Gandalf if he did not come back from the dead. The perfectly stable and uninterrupted narrative rules of the Tolkien universe demand that Gandalf come back from the dead.

Again, ladies and gentlemen, you may like the LOTR story or hate it. But will anyone really say that J.R.R. Tolkien was insufficiently concerned with the stability of his narrative universe?

One could cite other examples besides LOTR – the fantastic element in Star Wars comes to mind – but this is going to be a long trial with a full-dress media frenzy accompaniment, and I don’t want to make it any longer.

The question is not whether LOTR or Star Wars, or fantasy in general, is good fiction or bad. The question is whether the presence of supernatural powers, including resurrection, implies narrative rules that are unstable or subject to arbitrary interference. It does not.

The reason is simple: supernatural powers, even including power over death itself, may transcend the stable orderliness of nature, but that does not mean they transcend all orderliness. There can be a supernatural order that stands above the natural order. This supernatural order may take many forms, and need not imply anything religious. The only point is that supernature can be just as orderly as nature.

On the other hand, ladies and gentlemen, what has been more common than sci-fi fiction that lacks stable narrative rules? The arbitrariness of the rules of the Star Trek universe has been a running joke for decades. The defense will introduce into evidence several examples of people mocking Star Trek for the cavalier manner in which it disregards its own narrative rules.

For the purposes of narrative, ladies and gentlemen, there is no functional difference between highly advanced technology and supernatural powers. What are “dilithium crystals” if not the Star Trek equivalent of magic? Sci-fi and fantasy are both defined as genres by their reliance on powers – which is another way of saying “technologies” – that are inexplicable. The only thing that separates the two genres is why the powers are held to be inexplicable.

And surely, ladies and gentlemen, that distinction has no relevance for the charge that has been brought against my client. Both sci-fi and fantasy involve inexplicable powers that “do the impossible” from our perspective. Why should one method of doing the impossible still allow for a stable narrative, but not the other?

Here’s another way to put that point. Before Locke’s resurrection, the prosecutor did not bring charges in spite of all sorts of “magic” events that took place in my client. If the prosecutor thought that Locke’s getting up out of a wheelchair was at least potentially reconcilable with a stable narrative universe, why does he not think the same about Locke’s resurrection?

Even now, what is it that the prosecutor wants to see in lieu of resurrections? Time travel. Time travel, ladies and gentlemen! Apparently the prosecution thinks you can travel through time and still be subject to some sort of orderly rules. Well, why can’t resurrection be subject to some sort of orderly rules? Of course, any set of orderly rules governing resurrection would have to be different from the rules of nature that we now live under. But the same is true of time travel!

I would like you to ask yourselves a question during this trial, ladies and gentlemen: Has the prosecutor introduced any actual evidence of narrative arbitrariness on the part of my client? Does my client actually exhibit the breakdown of narrative structure that the prosecution attributes to it?

Surely not. The resurrection of John Locke fits the established narrative seamlessly and perfectly. Of course Locke was resurrected when he returned to the Island. He would not be Locke – and the Island would not be the Island – if it were not so.

The prosecutor also brought a charge of promise-breaking, but on this charge no serious defense is needed, since the prosecutor has failed to introduce any evidence that my client’s creators promised that dead characters would never come back to life. On the evidence so far introduced in this court, they promised only that 1) the characters on the island who appear to be alive are really alive, and 2) when those characters appear to die, they really die. None of this amounts to a promise that dead characters will not be resurrected, ladies and gentlemen. So on this charge we will be submitting a motion for summary judgment.

It is also worth noting, ladies and gentlemen, that the prosecutor confuses the question of genre (sci-fi or fantasy) with the role of faith in the narrative. “Faith” is not necessarily faith in something supernatural. That word means the same thing whether we’re talking about trusting God or trusting in another person, or even a machine. Indeed, the question of whether we should (with John) have faith in the Island, or (with Jack) doubt it was the central plot device on my client long before it was clear whether the Island was supernatural. The whole issue of faith is irrelevant to the prosecutor’s charge; the issue here is whether a narrative world can simultaneously allow for supernatural powers and have stable rules. And on that point I trust you will now see my client’s innocence.

And if all that doesn’t convince you, we have one more argument to offer.

Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed “jury” . . . this is Chewbacca.

Andy’s Just Plain Wrong

March 5, 2009

Andy Rotherham is a great guy.  And he’s often right.  But I’m afraid that on vouchers he’s just plain wrong.

Andy responded to my post, which was a response to an earlier post he wrote on vouchers.  Let me just run through his arguments:

First, Andy wants to argue that vouchers have stalled politically.  I pointed out that there are now 24 voucher or tax-credit programs in 15 states serving more than 100,000 students.  And two new programs were adopted last year and a third significantly expanded. 

No fair, Andy cries, including tax-credit programs “creates a false sense of scale for intentional choice plans.”  What’s false about counting tax credit programs, like the one in Florida which functions as the largest voucher program in the country?  The program gives vouchers — excuse me — “scholarships” to students from organizations that are funded with dollar for dollar tax credit donations from corporations.  This is virtually identical in financing and effect as the state simply giving vouchers to students.  The only difference is that the tax credit is treated better by the courts (don’t ask why) because the money never enters the state treasury before going right back out the door as a voucher.

But let’s say we grant Andy his odd position that tax-credit programs don’t count.  We still have 13 voucher programs in 10 states serving about 50,000 students.  And the two new programs adopted last year were both voucher programs.  Wish as he might, Andy still can’t show that vouchers have stalled politically.

Second, Andy rightly says, “Reasonable people can review the cumulative literature about choice plans and disagree on how substantively significant or transformative these effects are (or could be at scale) and what that means for vouchers as a policy. ”  While reasonable folks could disagree about the magnitude of the effect of expanded school choice on public school performance, no reasonable person could disagree with the observation that the research literature supports at least some positive impact.  Given how hard it is to find any policy intervention that raises student achievement, consistently finding a positive impact from the systemic effect of vouchers should be treated as a big deal.  It isn’t to Andy. 

Third, Andy concedes that the more frightening prospect of vouchers helped spread charters, at least in the early stages of the charter movement.  But now that charters have reached critical mass, they may well do just fine without the viable threat of new and expanded voucher programs.  Folks who are really sincere about charters shouldn’t get so comfortable.  Just look at the unionization of the KIPP charter in NY or the constant effort to regulate charters to death in many states.  Dropping vouchers from your arsenal would be like confronting a resurgent Russia after dismantling all of your nuclear weapons.  You may think your conventional forces are up to the task, but ask the Poles how they would feel about it.

I’ve never understood why people would support charters but oppose vouchers.  The theory that expanded choice is good for the participating student and helps spur improvement in traditional public schools is required for both reforms.  Yes, charters are more easily subject to regulation than private schools receiving vouchers, but healthy charter programs require light regulation and states have not been shy about applying similar light regulation to voucher programs. 

The only reason I can imagine that folks would support charters but oppose vouchers is for political gain since the theory and evidence for both are essentially the same.  And I understand why politicians invent these false distinctions to prove their moderation and good sense by opposing the one they artificially dub as radical.  But we aren’t politicians.  We don’t have to lie or invent false distinctions to please constituencies.  Universities, think tanks, and the blogosphere should be refuges for reasoned inquiry and dispute, not rhetoric for political advantage.  As it says on the great seal — Veritas.

UPDATE — Andy’s a nice guy.  I tried to make my post as hyperbolic as possible and he responds kindly and reasonably.  Damn, he’s good.

UPDATE TO UPDATE — Just to be clear, I still think Andy is just plain wrong.  The fig leaf that Andy uses to be pro-charter while anti-voucher is the concern that vouchers sever “the connection between avenues of democratic input into schooling decisions and those decisions.   In other words, for some people the issue isn’t choice, rather it’s accountability in a broad sense.”  The reality is that there is as much opportunity for democrat input in the  design and operation of voucher programs as charter schools or traditional public schools for that matter.  The public can place whatever regulations it deems necessary on voucher schools as a condition of receiving those funds, just as it does with charter and traditional public schools.  Of course, all of these systems would operate best with minimal regulation.  If regulation were the answer to school effectiveness our public schools would already be fantastic.

Why President Obama is an Outlier

March 5, 2009
(Guest Post by Dan Lips)

In his new book, Outliers, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell examines why some people become extraordinarily successful and others do not.

Challenging the conventional notion of the self-made man, Gladwell argues that most great success stories spring from unique advantages and opportunities that enable remarkable achievement.

Consider Bill Gates. Most people know how, as a young computer whiz, he dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft and revolutionize the software industry and the American economy in the process. But often overlooked in this simple tale are the events in Gates’ life that put him on the path to greatness.

Gladwell explains that, as a teenager, Gates attended a private school that offered a computer club. At a time when few colleges were offering students hands-on computer experience, Gates was practicing real-time computer programming in the eighth grade. This early experience led Gates to capitalize on other unique opportunities, including working part-time testing code for a local tech company and sneaking into the University of Washington at night to steal time computer programming.

These unique opportunities made Bill Gates an outlier, as he admits: “I had a better exposure to software development at a young age than I think anyone did in that period, and all because of an incredibly lucky series of events.”

Or consider perhaps the greatest outlier of our time: President Barack Obama. Part of what captures the public’s imagination about our new president is that his is the quintessential tale of the self-made man.

You know the story. The son of an absent African father, the young Obama was raised by his mother and grandparents in middle-class America. He went on to earn degrees from Columbia and Harvard University, where he became the first black president of the law review. This historic achievement earned the young lawyer a book deal from a top publisher and a grip on a career ladder that he climbed to the top of Illinois politics and, finally, to the White House.

Perhaps the most important door to open in young Obama’s life came in 1971, when, at age 10, he received a scholarship to enroll in the private Punahoa school in Hawaii.

He spent the next eight years learning aside the children of the elite in the state’s most prestigious school, where he came to thrive in academics, athletics and extracurricular activities.

After being elected to the Senate in 2004, Obama returned to the school and spoke about its importance in his life: “There was something about this school that embraced me, gave me support and encouragement, and allowed me to grow and prosper. I am extraordinarily grateful.”

In the cases of both Gates and Obama, it takes a special person to take advantage of their opportunities. But it’s fair to conclude that Gates likely wouldn’t have founded Microsoft had he not joined a computer club in 1967, and that Obama wouldn’t have become president had he not attended the Punahoa school.

In the latter case, one wonders what might have become of Obama had he not received his scholarship. Would he have even graduated from college (let alone Columbia and Harvard) if he attended one of Hawaii’s generally mediocre public schools instead of Punahoa? The America’s Promise Alliance reports that the high-school graduation rate in Honolulu’s public schools is just 64 percent. In 2007, only 20 percent of Hawaii’s eighth-grade students scored “proficient” in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The point of Gladwell’s book isn’t to explain away our greatest successes, but to challenge us to create a society where one doesn’t have to be an outlier to be a success. “To build a better world,” he writes, “we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that determine success with a society that provides opportunities to all.”

One way to level the playing field would be to give all children access to educational opportunities similar to those enjoyed by Gates and Obama. The new president could help make that a reality in the US by supporting the principle that all families — regardless of background — should have the power to choose the best school for their children and by challenging lawmakers across the country to make that promise a reality.

President Obama knows the benefit of that opportunity — he’s passing it along to his daughters by enrolling them in an elite private school in Washington. As president, he could fight to give more children in the District and beyond the same opportunity.

Every child deserves a chance to become the next Bill Gates or Barack Obama, not just the outliers.

Dan Lips is a Senior Policy Analyst for education at the Heritage Foundation.

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