ROLAND MARTIN : So, Senator Paul, when you say supporting vouchers, give me a percentage or a number in terms of who should get this. And look, I’m a school choice supporter. I’ve gone to magnet schools as well. But in Illinois, the then state senator, James Meeks, had a voucher bill that said students who went to the – 5% of the worst schools, meaning in terms of performance – the 5% worst would get the vouchers.
The top 95% wouldn’t. It passed the Illinois senate. It died in the house because house republicans, this was supposedly one of their issues, did not support it. And so who should be able to get vouchers? Are you starting with the worst of the worst? Or saying anybody?
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Yeah, I think starting with the worst of the worst, if that’s the coalition it takes to get it passed is reasonable. And I would vote for any school choice. But I wouldn’t, you know, I wouldn’t say that I would stop there. If more people would support it I’d do school choice for everybody saying what’s good for poor kids is also good for middle class kids.
But really there are a lot of kids in poorer schools in the cities that aren’t doing very well, why don’t we start with the worse of the worst problem, but if it works, let’s say charter schools work, my goal would be why don’t we change all schools into charter schools? And this doesn’t mean getting rid of public schools; it just means a new model for how we build public schools. And the model is basically that local principals, local teachers have more control about the way they teach. And one of the things I heard yesterday from the parents, which is pretty remarkable and pretty simple, she said that when her kid began at this KIP charter school she had to come in and sign a contract saying that she would monitor her homework and that she would insure that the child was doing the homework, and that she would come in periodically and sit down with the teacher. And I hear that over and over again from teachers who are successful.
One teacher told me, she said, you know the only thing I do, I call every Friday, every parent. I have 20 kids in my class, or 17 kids in my class. I call every parent on Friday and tell them how they’re doing. Johnny’s doing his homework, Susie’s not doing her math, Johnny did poorly on a math test, and give them feedback and get the parents involved. And I think that’s what you got to do. But these are little things that really we got to do more than what we’ve been doing in the traditional school.
TOM JOYNER: Sybil and Jay, are charter schools available to everyone?
SYBIL WILKES: They were supposed to be.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: You know, I think it depends on the area and the state. Sometimes they’re open, most time I think they do have a monetary, you have to be in a lower monetary category to get in, I think. But I think it’s different in different states.
ROLAND MARTIN: I will say this here, Tom, it is one of the criticisms, but here’s a reality. Magnet schools are also not available to everybody, meaning there’s also a process in terms of applying to get in. And so the thing, Senator, that I’ve always said is that when I look at education you have a slice that goes to magnet schools, that goes to charter schools, it might go to vouchers, it might go to different programs, but I don’t believe in shutting off any avenue. But I certainly believe in the issue of performance and how do you actually get students to learn. But I will say this, Senator, the people who support vouchers, and I challenged them at their conference two years ago, that if you truly support the issue you start with those students that go to the worst of the worst schools and say they should have the opportunity first, not a middle class student who is doing well who frankly can go to a fairly decent school.
TOM JOYNER: That would be fair.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that. The only argument I would push a little bit on it, if it succeeds and the schools are doing great, for these kids, expand the program.
ROLAND MARTIN: I would say, Senator, if you go for the bottom 5% and if it does well, then you go for the bottom 10% and the bottom 15%, but the fear of many people is that you have individuals who support vouchers who are not minority. They’re looking for their kids to go better schools. I’m saying the challenge is if you start there people would say, yeah, you care about the people who have the worst education versus some kid who can frankly go to a decent school whose middle class.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Well, the other thing that’s kind of interesting with this is, you know, my kids go to a public school in Kentucky. We actually choose to go to the school in the city which is a much more diverse community in that school. So we have the reverse of what’s happening in America where people went to the suburbs. We’re in the suburbs and we choose to go to the city school that has great academics and also great athletics. And everybody is choosing to go to this school. In fact so many, so they’re trying to limit people now going, but School Choice works.