Students take an exam.
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The debate over the existence of public schools

For many years, the mainstream political debate about the minimum wage was between those who wanted to increase the legal floor and those who wanted to leave it alone. But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, a third contingent took shape: GOP policymakers who said the minimum wage simply shouldn’t exist.
 
This dynamic comes up quite a bit. We used to debate about how best to shape the Medicare program; now we debate whether to eliminate Medicare and transition seniors to a coupon system in the private market. We used to debate how to strengthen Social Security; now we debate whether to privatize Social Security out of existence.
 
And while we used to debate the best way to help America’s system of public schools, we occasionally hear from conservatives who believe it’s time to scrap the very idea of public education altogether.
Fox host Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery suggested getting rid of the nation’s public schools during a discussion on Thursday’s “Outnumbered.”
 
Kennedy’s comments came during a segment about an Oklahoma bill, approved by a House committee, that seeks to eliminate AP US History. The bill asserts that the current iteration of the course doesn’t show “American exceptionalism,” instead highlighting “what is bad about America.”
The Fox host said, “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there?  I mean we should really go to a system where parents of every stripe have a choice, have a say in the kind of education their kids get because, when we have centralized, bureaucratic education doctrines and dogmas like this, that’s exactly what happens.”
 
I don’t want to overstate this. I’m only vaguely aware of who Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery is, and it’d be a stretch to characterize her an influential figure in Republican politics.
 
But she’s not the only one making the anti-public-education argument.
 
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, has said many times that he doesn’t believe public schools should exist. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) hasn’t gone nearly that far, but he did champion a voucher scheme in his home state – a step towards privatization – and recently condemned public education as “government-run, unionized monopolies.”
 
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is also clearly not a fan of public schools, and celebrates “alternatives  to conventional public education.”
 
At the state and local level, this kind of talk is arguably even more common. Last year the vice-chair of the Ohio House Education Committee condemned public schools as “a socialist system.”
 
And as we talked about the other day, it’s hard to forget the Texas Republican lawmaker who said of public schools several years ago, “Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell.”
 
I don’t seriously expect the anti-schools argument to appear in any national Republican platforms anytime soon; it’s far more common to see GOP policymakers slash investments in education while leaving the weakened systems in place.
 
But what was once an unheard of idea is slowly becoming a little more common. For education proponents, this isn’t good news.
 

Education Policy

The debate over the existence of public schools