How policy innovation and judicial restraint address public education
The battle to retake our public education system from the left starts with innovative policies such as school choice and ends with federal judges who uphold those policies against the inevitable onslaught of lawsuits. The liberal infiltration of the public education system, from kindergarten through higher education, has gone on for decades now. Ronald Reagan fought against it over half a century ago, and accurately warned us of the consequences we would face if we allowed the trend to continue.
President Trump may be our last hope to reverse course for our education system. If he fails to win the election, the battle for our very identity could surely be lost. Trump bought our country valuable time with his important record of judicial appointments, including two Supreme Court justices. The hundreds of federal judges that he has appointed provide a crucial bulwark against liberal advances. It will not hold forever, but many of those federal judges will remain on the bench for decades to come.
One of the most important arenas of the education system plays out in the form of teachers unions, which often had mandatory union dues. Back in 2018, in one of the first major rulings shaped by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional to force teachers to pay union dues. Because a significant portion of these mandatory dues are spent supporting Democratic candidates, the Supreme Court rightly ruled that such dues represent a form of forced political speech.
The public education system should be about children, with maximum coordination between parents and teachers and minimal intervention from union bosses and government bureaucrats. The originalist judges that Trump has appointed, and the ones he would appoint if he wins the election, will allow us to move in that direction without being stymied by liberal judges who use their authority to legislate from the bench.
Two of the most successful public education reforms in recent decades are charter schools and school choice vouchers. By giving parents the choice to move their children, and their tax dollars, to private or charter schools instead of the failing public schools in their area, we are able to both improve educational outcomes and reduce income disparities.
The Supreme Court has overturned state laws that restrict parents from using vouchers for religious schools, expanding the options available and making the program more accessible. But as Justice Samuel Alito noted in his concurring opinion, there are dozens of states with constitutions that ban public funds from benefiting religious schools. Although the Supreme Court ruling should invalidate those provisions in all the states, the battle will likely continue in federal court for some time, so it is a good thing that we have been able to get so many conservative judges appointed.
Those judges will be useful to reformers like Education Secretary Betsy Devos, who has proposed expansions of federal school choice initiatives, including charter schools, tax credits, and vouchers to empower families to choose the best possible education for their children. Trump set that agenda himself in his State of the Union, and if voters elect a Republican Congress in November, school choice will soon become a reality for low income families across the country whose children have been trapped in underperforming and, in many cases, dangerous local schools.
Our current education system is based on an old “progressive” philosophy that does not give children the key intellectual tools they need to become independent thinkers. Public schools do not teach children how to form their own ideas as curriculums focus on regurgitation and memorization with little efforts to help students understand why things are the way they are. Forcing children to stay in failing schools is arguably the worst kind of bad policy, and the dire consequences will be felt by people for decades, setting whole generations back in their quest to achieve success.
Bold reforms will allow us to regain the lead that the United States once held in education, and to secure our prosperity and opportunity for future generations. Indeed, Trump has paved the way by appointing judges who will protect policy innovators from bureaucratic intrusion, but he and his team still have a lot more to do if they are going to clean up the mess that has been made of our public education system in recent decades.
Madison Gesiotto is an attorney who serves with the advisory board of the Donald Trump campaign. You can follow her on Twitter @MadisonGesiotto.