From the convention: American Federation for Children and the push for school choice

Republicans in Tampa did more Tuesday than tally the state roll call.  The party also voted on its official platform for the rest of the campaign season. In education, the GOP platform spells out its support for school choice, “whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers or tax credits.”

It’s similar to what Mitt Romney has described in his education white paper, in which he calls for low-income and special-education students to be able to attend any school.

The inclusion was a victory for the American Federation for Children, a national group that advocates the expansion of school choice. At the convention, The Hechinger Report talked with Randan Swindler, the federation’s director of external affairs, to learn more.

Q: What do you think about what Mitt Romney has proposed around school choice?

A: We’ve actually been working with the platform committee to finalize getting school choice on the platform – on the Republican platform. We’re very supportive of Governor Romney’s position on school choice. He’s kind of an all-in kind of guy. He supports parental choice through charter schools, through vouchers, through tax credits, scholarships. And we would just really encourage him to expand on that in his presidency if he were elected.

What do you think of what President Obama has done over the past four years?

He’s definitely expressed some support for giving parents choices. It was a little bit disappointing that he didn’t reinvest in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. We had to fight for that but it has been reauthorized, which was something that we supported. But we would definitely like to see him use stronger language to support parental choice and back away from the unions and find ways that he’s actually supporting parents as opposed to playing the union line.

The Hechinger Report recently did a story about Louisiana’s voucher program and one issue raised was that many schools teaching questionable things might be eligible for vouchers. What do you say to that?

It’s up to the parents. As a parent, it’s a personal responsibility, looking at the curriculum. It’s just another option for parents, so we’re not going to get involved in saying what schools can and cannot teach. We want them to be accountable and transparent for the parents so that they have the options that they need to make the best decisions for their kids.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

POSTED BY ON August 28, 2012