‘Crisis In The Classroom’ School Choice Debate Gets Heated

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Frances Floresca Contributor
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Just before the first Republican presidential debate Wednesday, four education policy leaders got into a heated debate on a school choice panel hosted by Crisis in the Classroom.

Michigan State University Professor Josh Cowen, school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, former Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito, and Texas State Board of Education member Staci Childs joined Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump to discuss policies related to school choice, teachers’ salaries, and parental rights. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Students Join Campaign To Urge GOP Presidential Candidates To Prioritize Federal School Choice)

Throughout the debate, Cowen mentioned former Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ name at least ten times.

“When we’re talking about these kind of Betsy DeVos voucher schemes, the last 10 years in particular have shown that they’re not the solution,” Cowen said in one instance mentioning DeVos.

“As bad as some children might be doing in some of the public schools in some of the areas,” they do worse when they go to private schools on vouchers, he noted.

Cowen also said many of Crump’s questions he “framed in this panel sort of are pretty aggressive against public schools in the first place.”

Throughout the debate, DeAngelis responded by saying in a recent interview that Cowen “admitted public school results actually improve in response to competition.”

He also said he and Cowen can agree there should not be “top-down controls inside a one-size-fits-all system where you have one group of parents or even a minority of special interests, the teachers unions. determining how to raise other people’s children.”

DeAngelis also argued it is a parent’s choice to send their children to a school that teaches Critical Race Theory, but “shouldn’t force me to send my child to a school that has it.”

He also “called out” Professor Cowen for being a hypocrite on school choice as he attended a private school.

Cowen later said that the “idea that parents aren’t involved and have no say, I don’t know where it’s coming from. I think it’s kind of a made up crisis.

Morabito and Childs also got into a debate over teacher salaries.

“It is absolutely necessary to start to pay teachers what they’re worth,” Childs said. “Not every teacher in America is not making over $100,000 a year.”

In response to Child’s comment, Morabito said that “teachers should be held to really high standards and should be looked at as unique individuals the same way we ought to be looking at students. Let’s reward those great teachers.”

Near the end of the debate, the panelists talked about school choice in rural America.

“I’m not really convinced that just automatically putting more private schools in these areas is just gonna fix things. How are we actually going to hold these private school leaders accountable when something goes wrong in those private schools?” Childs said.

“If you’re looking at this just as a debate between public and private schools, I think you’re taking too narrow a view of school choice,” Morabito replied to Childs. “Some of the best options for people particularly in rural areas are things like micro schools or things like homeschools.”

Childs said she still was not convinced about the idea of how funding for school choice programs has worked.

DeAngelis responded that Democrats “tend to support funding students directly when it comes to Pell Grants or the GI Bill to go to private school or even a religious university.”

He continued by saying that the “funds following the student” model has worked in Florida as “10 out of 11 studies statistically significant positive effects on private school choice competition on the outcomes in the public schools. They just put out a report out of Florida finding that since school has expanded over the past couple of decades in Florida, and the number of private schools in rural areas has effectively doubled.”

After DeAngelis responded, Cowen briefly discussed how “Betsy DeVos school voucher schemes” do not work just before the debate ended.

“Parents know what’s best for their kids, and so they deserve the right to decide where and how their children will learn,” Morabito told the Daily Caller. “When only 37% of high school seniors are proficient readers, the current system needs to change. The other side is trying to defend the indefensible, strip parents of their rights, and rob students of the education they deserve. School choice is an obvious solution that parents have flocked to everywhere it’s available to them.”

“Although small often privately funded voucher ‘demonstration’ programs (like a clinical trial, carefully managed, small number of participants) showed some early positive signs between 2000 and 2010, the last decade or so has shown some of the largest negative effects on student achievement on record. Especially in Indiana and Louisiana,” Cowen told the Daily Caller.

“School choice is now a GOP litmus-test issue and a political winner,” DeAngelis told the Daily Caller.”

He said in the 2022 midterms, there “wasn’t a red wave, there wasn’t a blue wave, but there was a school choice wave.”

“76% of the candidates supported by my organization, the American Federation for Children and our state affiliates, won their races in 2022,” DeAngelis said. “And we didn’t just play in the easy ones. We targeted 69 incumbents in state legislatures – the hardest thing to do in politics – and took out 40 of them for opposing education freedom.”

He continued by saying coming out against parental rights in education is “becoming a form of political suicide.”

The Daily Caller contacted all panelists but did not receive a response from Childs in time for publication.