So far, much of the preparation for next year’s Democratic primary in South Carolina has focused on signing up prominent African-American politicians, in hopes that they can deliver that segment of the vote (Hellooo, Senator Clinton).
But when the campaigning gets serious in the Palmetto State, Ms. Clinton, “Barry” Obama (as he was known at Harvard), and the Breck Girl may find themselves confronting an issue they hadn’t planned on.
It’s called school choice. As Brendan Minitier recently noted at OpinionJournal.com, the issue is gaining traction in South Carolina, and not just among Republicans. State school superintendent Jim Rex–the only Democrat to win state-wide election last fall–has endorsed school choice (but only within the public school system). Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled legislature is considering a bill that would provide tuition tax credits for middle-class parents, and a $4500 scholarship that poor kids could use at any school, public or private. And, a recent school choice rally in Columbia attracted several thousand supporters. One of the legislators who organized buses for rally participants was Democratic State Representative Curtis Brantley, an African-
American from Jasper County who (coincidentally) is a former educator.
School choice isn’t law (yet) in South Carolina, but as Mr. Miniter observes, there is a clear groundswell in that direction. And that means the standard Democratic song-and-dance about preserving our government, err public schools, may not resonate as it once did. Admittedly, the issue probably won’t determine the winner of next year’s primary, but it will be useful in getting the Democratic candidates on record, and causing them to squirm, if only a bit.
Addendum: It would be nice if someone from the press asked Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards about the story of Rontrell Matthews–the African-American teenager profiled in Minitier’s column. The question is simple: what would you do to improve education for young men like Rontrell–other than propping up failing public schools. As you’ll discover in Miniter’s account, Rontrell realized his old school was substandard, and took a job at a sandwich shop to help finance his tuition at a private, Christian school. Given the opportunity, a lot of other African-American students would vote with their feet, too, and that’s bound to make the Democrats nervous.