At Republicans’ recent retreat, Messer listened to GOP strategist Alex Castellanos promote school choice as one of a handful of issues that should make up a new agenda for the party.
“I thought, oh gosh — maybe I’m onto something here,” Messer said.
School choice has always been a hard sell in Washington: GOP lawmakers from rural states and those with powerful unions don’t stand to gain much from pushing the issue. In wealthier districts, too, parents may not feel they have much to gain if they are satisfied with their well-funded public schools. Other members of Congress don’t see why it’s worth the time.
“It’s an interesting challenge: Republicans believe this will be good for vulnerable kids and kids that need help,” said Frederick Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute. “But it’s also a fact that their local superintendents, and school boards, and kids, and parents are saying, ‘We don’t think this is a good idea’ in many cases.”