A Tea Party-backed Republican congressional nominee has championed abolishing public schools in California, and is currently the favorite to win his November election.
The candidate, David Harmer, a corporate lawyer who has yet to serve in public office, is up against two-term Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney for California’s 11th district — located in Northern California — in the House of Representatives.
Framing the issue as a struggle between government tyranny and freedom — a preferred political tactic of conservatives — Harmer wrote: “In the freest and most prosperous country on Earth, in the midst of the information age, government ownership and operation of the schools is a counterproductive anachronism.”
He added: “So long as the state Constitution mandates free public schools, a voucher system (or refundable tuition tax credit) is the best we can do. To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.”
The GOP candidate argued in the Chronicle that his vision for education reflects “the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood.” As Baumann notes, that was an era “when educational opportunities for poor people, African-Americans, women, the disabled, and others were, to say the least, extremely limited.”
Although Harmer holds a slim lead in the polls — 49.4 to 48.4 percent — polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times analyzes the dynamics of the race and gives the Tea Party favorite a considerable 54.7 to 45.3 percent chance of victory next month.
Yet Harmer’s views on education, largely ignored so far, could hurt him in a state where the public school and college system is so treasured that even Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman — bucking her party’s trend of defiance to publicly-funded education — has pledged to strengthen California’s public schools.
Read Baumann’s Mother Jones article for more context and perspective.