November 6, 2015

In losing the race for Governor in Kentucky, Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway wasn’t just wrong on fiscal responsibility by embracing ObamaCare expansion that will cost Kentucky taxpayers $1.2 billion.

He also may have stubbed his toe on the issue of school choice.

Commentators say Conway failed to roll up big margins in traditionally Democratic urban areas of the state. For example, the Louisville Courier Journal reported “Democrat Jack Conway failed to roll up the large margin in Jefferson County (Louisville) he needed and couldn’t minimize losses elsewhere as Matt Bevin grabbed large margins throughout the rest of the state”.

Conway may have flopped in Democratic urban areas because he opposes school choice. In Louisville, Americans for Prosperity ran ads with African-American parents talking about the need for education equality through choice. In the ad, one parent said “Jack Conway, you say you believe in charter schools but you don’t believe that public money should go there. But shouldn’t the money follow kids where the best education is available to them?”

In North Carolina, polling shows school choice divides traditionally Democratic voters from their party leaders who march in lockstep with the teachers union that hates giving parents choice.

Earlier this year, the Carolina Partnership for Reform asked voters if they supported opportunity scholarships for low income families to send their children to the school of their choice. Among all voters, opportunity scholarships are favored 52% to 43%. Among Democratic voters, the school choice issue is much more potent.

For example, Democratic women favor it 54% to 38%. Conservative Democrats favor it 64% to 34%. Among a group Democrats target, working women, opportunity scholarships win 51% to 42%.

But it’s among African-American voters where Democratic politicians are way out of touch with the people who usually vote for them. Opportunity scholarships are favored by African-American voters 71% to 24%.

So wouldn’t the same ad Americans for Prosperity ran in Kentucky work in North Carolina to persuade African-American voters to take a look at Republican candidates who favor opportunity scholarships?

Conservative reformers in the Legislature support allowing parents to choose the school that is right for their child. Where you live shouldn’t make a difference in the quality of education your child receives. Choice gives everyone a better shot at getting a good education.

African-American parents overwhelmingly support school choice. Republicans would be smart to reach out to them on the issue.

Simply assuming voters know conservatives believe in school choice isn’t an effective strategy. Conservatives need to reach out with a targeted message like Americans For Prosperity did in Kentucky.