Hi, I'm the new Republican

Roll Right

Wait a minute. You've only read the headline and you're already rolling your eyes! Wipe off the smirk and look back here. This isn't the same old conservative column. You're not going to be offended; you're not going to be disgusted. You're not going to rip the paper to shreds.

I'm not going to blindly feed you the Republican Party's talking points in anticipation that its sterile words will somehow trigger an ideological enlightenment across campus. The point of this column is not for you to change your party affiliation; it is to make you, at the very least, open to thinking differently. That's the college student way, isn't it?

We all know there are some people out there, both Republicans and Democrats, who just love mouthing off their more extreme points of view, gleefully anticipating nasty glares. After all, the more outrageous things you say, the cooler political science major you are, right? To be utterly discounted by your peers is to be ideologically pure!

Nah. I don't buy that. These people don't realize that if you want to win people to your side, don't make them afraid of it! Discuss the issues you can agree on. Explain the more practical elements of your ideology. Make people realize you're a legitimate thinker. Show people you're a believer.

As a new conservative editorialist for The Eagle, I have the opportunity to define for the AU community what a campus conservative is. And while I can't speak for everyone, I know that I am a conservative because of ideas.

Let's try one. Children in disadvantaged areas trapped in failing schools. Call me crazy, but I think every child should have equal access to at least a decent education. That's not Democratic or Republican, it's humane. So how do you go about providing equal access to education? If families hovering at or below the poverty line were given the means and permission to allow their children to attend a better school, they would. Sounds like a good idea, and it's called school choice.

For some of you, an alarm just went off in your head. "School choice" is on that list of dirty words you have to watch out for when spoken by a Republican. So if you wish to remain ignorant, stop reading now and immediately discount the idea as a vicious Republican ploy.

Children will be starved! Public education as we know it is doomed! Wealthy people are greedy and mean! No blood for oil! (The last one is just for effect).

Now that you got that out of your system, let's get to the problem. Children in low-income families living in disadvantaged neighborhoods have fewer opportunities. This is due in large part to the failing schools in which they are enrolled and summarily trapped.

The knee-jerk reaction of most politicians, teacher unions, and AU students would be to provide more money for these school districts. That's reasonable, but it assumes that a.) money grows on trees and b.) it will help. Sorry for the sarcasm, but each assumption is factually inaccurate.

In what University of Rochester professor Eric Hanushek calls the "explosion" in public school spending, "inflation-adjusted per-student spending in the United States has almost tripled in the last 30 years."

When looked at state-by-state, one would assume that those states that spend the most money on education will have the best performing students. Again, wrong. The three top-spending states - California, New York and New Jersey - all report lower test scores than Utah. Oh by the way, Utah spends less on education than all the other 49 states. And within these states, private and charter schools are beating public schools in test scores with only 60 percent of the per-student funding.

As a proud product of public schools, I realize that the problem does not need more money, but a fundamental change. Cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland have taken the first step by initiating programs that give parents the power to decide what school their child will attend. Educational tax credits are implemented that directly reduce a family's tax liability for a private school. After all, when a family pays for private school, they are still bound to pay the property taxes for the public school that their children do not attend.

Now I have to prove to you that this solution works. Again, let's go to the facts. According to a recent Harvard University study, test scores of students using vouchers improved by more than six points compared to students in the original public school.

It's simple: when parents can choose what school their child attends, their child does better. It's surprising that some people would actually prefer families not have this choice.

Well, that does it. The first of many non-threatening, easy-to-understand yet pre-judged conservative ideas to improve America. See you back here in two weeks.

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