EDITORIAL: School choice gives Florida a Republican governor

African-American women helped elect a Republican governor in Florida.

That’s the conclusion of William Mattox, writing in The Wall Street Journal last week. His theory might have implications for Nevada.

Republican Ron DeSantis narrowly beat Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s next governor. Mr. DeSantis won by 34,000 votes out of 8.2 million. CNN exit polling showed that 18 percent of African-American women supported Mr. DeSantis. That’s hardly a landslide, but it was more than double the support — 8 percent — he got from black men. African-Americans gave just 9 percent of their votes to Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current Gov. Rick Scott.

Around 650,000 African-American women voted in Florida. If Mr. DeSantis had earned 8 percent of their votes, instead of 18 percent, he would have lost the election.

Mr. Mattox convincingly contends that Mr. DeSantis’ support among black women stems from their shared support of school choice, which Mr. Gillum opposed. Florida has a robust system of choice. Around 150,000 students now attend private schools using one of four school choice programs. That includes 108,000 who use an Opportunity Scholarship program called Step Up For Students.

“Most Step Up students are minorities whose mothers are registered Democrats,” Mr. Mattox wrote. “Yet many of these ‘school-choice moms’ vote for gubernatorial candidates committed to protecting their ability to choose where their child goes to school.”

This isn’t surprising. Polling arond the country and in Clark County consistently shows that school choice is popular, especially in the minority community.

School choice puts Democrats in a tricky spot. The programs have a track record of success and are wildly popular with parents. Democrats usually ally with teacher union officials, who strongly oppose choice programs. Private schools are rarely unionized, so school choice decreases the power and finances of teacher unions. Do Democrats support a program that improves education or do the bidding of their union cronies?

That’s the question facing Democrats next year in Carson City. Nevada has its own Opportunity Scholarship program, which currently helps 2,300 students attend private school. At the end of last session, lawmakers more than doubled the program’s funding with a one-time infusion of $20 million.

As Amelia Pak-Harvey reported Nov. 25, that money is helping students such as high schooler Jose Diaz thrive in private school after struggling in public school.

The future of young Diaz and the thousands like him now rests in the hands of Carson City Democrats. To their credit, some have signaled support for Opportunity Scholarships. Whatever happens, parents will be watching.

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