August 26, 2008 12:19PM

“The [School Choice] Times, They Are a‐​Changin’ ”

Reporting from the Democratic National Convention two days ago, Salon’s Mickey Kaus was stunned to find a room packed with 500 people cheering as Newark mayor Cory Booker defended school choice. Booker complained of the viciousness of education politics, noting that “he’d been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice.” And when Booker told the crowd that their party would “have to admit, as Democrats, we have been wrong on education,” he was greeted by “Loud applause!” [emphasis in Kaus’ original].

Liberal columnist and Newsweek editor and Jonathan Alter, who moderated the next panel, said it would have been hard to imagine such an event at previous Democratic conventions. According to Kaus, Alter “called it a ‘landmark’ future historians should note.”

Universal, state‐​wide school choice programs may not be passed in the next year, or even in the year after that. But they are coming. A sea change in the politics of school choice has begun and it is hard to imagine how it might be stopped. As I noted on this blog few months ago, Democratic politicians are coming to see parental choice in education as an effective way of improving access to good schools for all families.

Of course there are still many holdouts. Sooner or later, though, even the holdouts will realize that the last politicians blocking the schoolhouse door, impeding children from leaving to attend schools of their families’ choosing, will be seen as the Oral Faubuses of the 21st century. Those holdouts might want to heed the words of Bob Dylan:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a‐​changin’.