When Christie Whitman ran for governor of New Jersey in 1993, promising to establish a school voucher system, I, along with some friends in Morristown, worked to help elect her. As the heads of lower middle-class large families, we were all struggling to keep financially afloat and desperate for help with paying tuition.
Whitman won, and appointed a committee headed by former Governor Tom Kean to develop a school voucher plan. But nothing came of it. In her two terms in office, not a single bill was sponsored to establish parental choice in education.
We learned to our dismay that school choice as proposed in 1955 by the late, great economics professor, Milton Friedman, was considered by pundits to be “politically impossible.”
Standing in the way is the progressive ruling class, which controls Congress like a puppet on strings – only, instead of strings, it uses money and power. Those who play along are enriched and those who don’t are dealt with accordingly. No one in Congress dares stand up to it.
In 2016, Senator Ted Cruz became the first person in Congress to follow Friedman’s advice and sponsor a school choice bill empowering Washington, D.C. parents to send their children to the school of their choice. Guess how many people joined Cruz in this effort? Just one! Congressman Mark Meadows.
Cruz soon came to be known as “the most hated person in Congress,” and the ruling class did all it could to oppose his candidacy for president in 2016.
It was during this presidential campaign, though, that I and my colleagues saw a recently-discovered video of an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. Missing for 33 years, this video featured a one-hour address the Rebbe delivered in July 1981 concerning the critical failures of America’s educational system.
The Rebbe explained that a severe schism had developed between public schools and traditional faith – a faith that has nourished this country since its founding. This schism, he said, has resulted in an educational system in conflict with family values, leading to an elevated level of communal strife and a steady increase in crime.
The roots of the schism lay in a 1962 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Engel v. Vitale, which did away with voluntary non-denominational prayer in New York public schools and caused our country’s educational system to turn sharply to the left.
Today, with the progressive ruling class holding the keys to our government’s purse strings by way of public employee unions, Americans can no longer rely on our representatives to restore the American public educational system to its former glory or help parents of private school students pay less tuition by seeing some of their tax dollars returned to them in the form of school vouchers. We must act ourselves. But how? How do we force political change?
A number of years ago, my friends and I came up with an idea that we believe can be very effective. We created a website that asks congressional candidates to sign a pledge that they will support school choice in Washington. Signatories of the pledge are called “Certified Constitutional Candidates.”
So far, 13 candidates have signed the pledge – their names are available on our website – but many more will do so if we make school choice a priority and pressure our representatives. Seven of the 13 are from New Jersey, and these seven signed mainly due to the efforts of one person. I say this not to brag but to illustrate how much power each of us possesses to make a difference.
With over 1,000 candidates vying for 500 congressional seats, we can surely find enough candidates to set our country back on the Constitutional track and thereby achieve two tremendous goals: 1) greatly reducing the tuition burden of yeshiva parents and 2) ushering in a new era of academic excellence, domestic tranquility, prosperity, liberty, and justice for all.