Rudy Giuliani Gets It Mostly Wrong On Education

Rudy Giuliani says he believes in school choice, but it’s not the kind of school choice you might think:

MERRIMACK, N.H. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Friday argued for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private elementary and secondary schools, saying school choice works for the nation’s colleges and universities.

People come from all over the world to attend college in the United States, Giuliani said at a town hall meeting in Merrimack, N.H.

“How is it that we have the best higher education in the world and a weaker K-through-12 system?” Giuliani said. “What’s the difference? Why does one operate so well and the other not nearly as well? American higher education is based on a quintessential American principle – choice.”

As mayor of New York, Giuliani backed vouchers for private and parochial schools in the face of opposition from his own schools chancellor.

“I’d give parents control over their children’s education,” Giuliani told the audience of about 150 people at a solar power products plant. “We’ve got to have competition operating. If we don’t do that, our education system is going to deteriorate.”

As Andrew Coulson points out at Cato@Liberty, Giuliani’s approach completely misses the point of what a true pro-choice position on education should be:

Real consumer choice and competition among schools aren’t just good ideas — they’re essential if we are ever going to see the kind of progress and innovation in education that we’ve seen in every other field over the past few centuries. But if Rudy is saying he’d back a federal school choice program, he’s got the right idea at the wrong level of government.

As someone who touts the merits of limited government, Giuliani should heed the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states and the people powers that they have not delegated to Washington in the Constitution. Last time I checked, neither the word “education” nor the word “school” appears anywhere in that document.

What Giuliani is saying is really no different from what any other Republican has said about education for the past 30 years or more. Heck 27 years ago, Ronald Reagan campaigned on the idea of eliminating the Department of Education.

And what have we gotten ?

Not less Federal involvement in education, but more, as epitomized by the George Bush-Ted Kennedy love child known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Not a smaller Department of Education, but a larger one.

And, in the end, have we gotten better schools ? Of course not.

For more than 200 years, the government kept its nose out of education, and for good reason; (1) the Constitution gives Congress absolutely no authority over the subject, and (2) it’s impossible for Congressman and bureaucrats sitting in Washington, D.C. to design an education system that is going to work for every school in every town in America.

One can debate whether government should be involved in education at all, and I certainly think that the government monopoly on education should be eliminated, but to the extent it should exist, that involvement belongs at the local level.

Mr. Giuliani, read the Constitution.