Selling is half the battle... helping people buy is where we win!
How does knowing your audience and meeting people where they're at help enact liberty-based policies?
Well, stop wondering, and start learning, as Corey DeAngelis returns to the program and takes us to school on not only the value of school choice, but how to effectively know your audience and meet them where they're at on the issues they care about to not only help you sell school choice, but to help them buy it.
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All right. And with that, returning to The Brian Nichols Show, you know him from fighting all things, the good fight with school choice, Cory de Angeles. Welcome back to The Brian Nichols Show. Hey, thank you so much for having me. Absolutely. Cory, thank you for returning to the program. So excited to have this conversation because, my friend, you are having just such success in in bringing school choice not just to people's minds, but actually into policy. Where are we at now, how many states have now embraced funding students versus funding systems?
I think nationwide, we're at about 31 states now. So over half state of the states have some form of funding students as opposed to systems or what most people call private school choice. And this year alone, we're calling this the year of school choice, because 19 states in this year alone have enacted or expanded programs to fund students directly as opposed to funding government school buildings. Wow. And that what some one, one of the best parts about this, and the greatest part is that the teachers unions are actively destroying their own Empire, they've overplayed their hand over the past year and a half by showing the country their their true colors, and by fighting to protect themselves at the expense of families at the worst time possible. And if you look at the latest real clear Opinion Research polling on this, between April of 2020 and and June of 2021, there's been a 10 percentage point jump in support for funding students directly from 64% support in April 2020 to 74%. support in June of 2021. And I think, and some of the biggest jumps in support have been among Democrats and families who have had their kids in the public school system. So more and more families are starting to realize that there isn't any good reason to fund failing closed government run institutions when you can fund the students directly instead. And that is the survey I was talking about. And thank God I was right. The biggest jumps were from Democrats and parents of children in the public school system. So like, the way that I put this before is that COVID didn't break the public school system, it was already broke, broken in a lot of ways. In the past year and a half simply shined a spotlight on the main problem with K to 12 education in America, which happens to be a massive, long existing power imbalance between the public school monopoly and individual families. It's one thing for a government run institution to continue receiving children's education dollars year after year, despite failing to meet their needs. But it's another conversation altogether for those same failing institutions to continue receiving children's education dollars, regardless of whether they even open their doors for business. So families were scrambling over the past year and a half. And they started to realize that while they were trying to dig into their pockets to pay for alternatives, the closed buildings continue to receive their children's money while they were left stranded. And so I think it started to become clear and clear that the funding should be portable, that should follow the child to wherever they're getting an education, we wouldn't have seen all of these problems that we saw over the past year and a half, if we only had mechanisms to fund students directly, as opposed to funding these buildings that had no incentive, essentially, to cater to the needs of families. So yeah,
I mean, I was just really quick, I had this up for folks who by the way we're playing along here with the audio only version, we have a chart that the court is referring to is that the in impact of the pandemic and I'll let you get right back to their inquiry. But I'm looking over here, the biggest surprise that caught me off guard was the 11% increase in support from Democrats in terms of supporting school choice now, to 70%. That's huge. And yet we see a lot of our friends in the left argue against school choice. It's just it's it's really interesting when you see, it's the exact opposite people are actually embracing school choice in mass.
Yeah, I think part of that one is people who are normally okay with their public school started to say, well, maybe I want an exit option, just in case, maybe going forward. I want to keep my public school, which you can still have it with a school choice program or some an initiative that allows the funding to follow the charge, you can still have that money, go to your public school and ROI, you're getting the public school, but maybe they're starting to say that well, if for whatever reason. There's a situation where I do want to pull my kid out of the public school, maybe that some of that funding should follow my child to an alternative scenario. Another thing I think people I don't know how much I've had an influence on this, but I think I've influenced you to make a shirt with the new saying and By the way, thank you so much for this shirt for people listening in the audio version, it's a kid with a book. And it says fun students not systems, I think that's been really important to change the conversation from just saying school choice to saying fun students not systems because one, it's more transparent, it gets to the idea that we just want the same money that that would have went to the public school to follow the child to wherever they're getting an education, and then to it puts the other side on defense, and puts the burden of proof on them as to why we should fund buildings and not students directly. And it puts them in this really weird predicament where it's really indefensible to argue for the status quo, especially because this starts to turn a light bulb on for a lot of people that understand other programs that fund individuals as opposed to institutions. For example, with higher education, we have the Pell grant for low income students where the funding goes to the student and then they can rightfully choose between public or private, religious or non religious universities. We do the same thing with pre k programs, including the federal headstart program. We don't residentially assign low income families and tell them to a government run pre k provider and tell them we must they must take their children there. Instead, the funding goes to the family and they can choose public, private, religious or non religious providers of pre k services, and so on and so on. We do the same thing with Medicaid dollars, you can take your Medicaid dollars to private religious hospitals, if you want, you can also take it to the public provider, you can do the same thing with the same idea with food stamps, we allow the family to take the food stamps to Walmart, Safeway Trader Joe's Harris Teeter, the funding follows the decision of the individual family unit. And it only it's weird to me, because a lot of the people that support all these other initiatives where the funding goes to people, they get all up in arms, about allowing funding to follow the individual only when it comes to the in between years of K through 12 education and the only difference there is power dynamics. And Brian, you know this because I'd say it so many times. But choice is the norm when it comes to higher education pre k in just about any other industry in the United States. But choice threatens and entrenched special interests, that would otherwise profit from getting your children's education dollars, regardless of how well they do, regardless of the satisfaction levels of the families. And what we've seen over the past year or year and a half, regardless of whether they even open their doors for business. So they fight really hard against any change to the status quo. I mean, this should not be a partisan issue. And hopefully, according to that polling, if that's correct, it's becoming less of a partisan issue. And I think part of that has to do with people starting to understand the concept of funding students directly as opposed to this term school choice, which a lot of people don't really even know what that means.
Oh, and how important is it to not always be playing defense, I love that you are focusing on this, because this is something I have been raising up here on the program to the audience. And what we've been talking about across the board is the importance of making sure that we're setting the narrative because even if, you know, let's just pretend that we're we're having our ideological opponents being good faith actors, they are still having the opportunity to set the narrative to whatever it wants to be. And again, as you said, Cory, then we're on the defensive. So now let's start setting that narrative. Let's start meeting people where they're at and showing them This isn't It's not what you think it is, and explain it in that way to actually sell this solution. So let's sell that solution. You're seeing states they're they're passing school choice, and mass, and you've gone through in previous episodes, and on Other appearances, the the value of school choice, but let's talk about the outcomes, the results, what are some case studies that we can look to right now that you're gonna say, you know, what, Brian, if I ever had to look at somebody there, they're maybe a little on the fence with school choice, I point them to this example. And it's almost a silver bullet every single time. What's that argument for you?
Ask the individual family what they want. I mean, that's the best evidence that there is, when when families have the opportunity to choose an alternative. They do it in large numbers. I used to point to the scientific evidence on this a lot. But I've come to start to realize that the more powerful argument is that families know more about their children's needs than bureaucrats sitting in offices hundreds of miles away. Regardless of what the quote unquote academic studies say on the topic. Family shouldn't need to use academic studies to prove why they should be able to choose their children's education. The burden of proof should be on the other side for the government's to try to argue why families should not have the right to choose their children. All environments. So I mean, just look at the waitlist for charter schools all across the country, there's consistently hundreds of 1000s of student names on charter school waitlist. So there's just families begging for the opportunity to get away. Look at what the teachers union say, whenever you propose allowing families to have an exit option, there first responses, oh, my goodness, you're trying to destroy public education, you're going to destroy our public schools. That's the best evidence we have, that the providers of our children's educational services, the monopoly understands that they're not doing a good job, and the families are not satisfied with the product that they're serving. So I think that's the best evidence there is. But I mean, I've talked about this on the previous podcast, probably that there's 17 random assignment studies that show that look at the the experiences of kids winning a lottery to attend a private school through a voucher program, compared to those students who lost the lottery, and who, for just based on random chance were stuck going to the traditional schools, they kid 10 out of the majority of those 17 random assignment evaluations find statistically significant positive effects on academic outcomes in either math or reading for some or all students. And all of these studies find that these outcomes at a fraction of the costs because the voucher programs are written in ways the bills are written in ways to where the kids using the voucher get a lot less than they would have gotten in the traditional schools. So for example, in DC, where I live, we have the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. And the DC public schools spend well over $30,000 per child per year, according to the US Census Bureau. And if you want to look at National Center for Education Statistics, there's pretty clearly documented they spend over $30,000 per kid, the voucher students only received about $10,000 per kid in the latest school year. And so they get about the same outcomes academically in DC, and much higher reports of satisfaction and safety at a third of the cost. Of course, the media is going to focus on the test score results, which are about the same between the two sectors. But oftentimes the media will overlook the fact that the satisfaction rates are much higher, the the attendance rates are much higher, the reports of safety are much higher, all at a third of the cost, which which is just a win win scenario for taxpayers and the the users of the program as well. So yeah, but look, there's there's tons of scientific evidence suggesting that students using voucher programs are more satisfied, there's about 30 studies on that topic, almost all of them if not all of them find the students using these programs are more satisfied than they would have been. They report higher levels of safety. And they there's also six studies linking school choice to crime reduction, and all six of them are peer reviewed and find statistically significant reductions in crime, which goes to show you families are choosing these schools based on a lot of different things that aren't always going to be measured by test scores they might be measured by it's some something captured in these reports of safety that aren't measured by math or reading test scores. So it could be the safety of the school, it could be the gang activity in the school, it could be these other non cognitive environmental outcomes that are improved, that that can't be captured just by a math or reading test score. So but but again, I'll just go back and say, Look, you don't know better than this family knows for their own kid, they should be able to have that choice. And if you if you think otherwise, the burden of proof should be on you as to why you we should force these kids into schools that are failing them,
as well, you know, the value of telling those stories. And actually, last week, we had on the show, Philip Stutz, he's a you know, one of the top minds in marketing in terms of politics, he's pretty much been behind the scenes for name, name, your your GOP election have any significance in the past, you know, 1520 years and most notably, or I guess, more maybe more recently, in terms of looking at the significance now his his role that he played in helping one Rhonda Santos get elected back in 2018. And Cory, that the number one issue that they focused on, was that a school choice? So he went out and we see the value of having these conversations with the the parents, the kids who are impacted directly by these policies. You're going out you're having these conversations, not only with lawmakers, but also with yes, those people who are directly impacted both the parents and the students, but also the teachers when you're when you're out having those conversations. Cory, do you have any stories that stick out that anybody is really, you know, brought to you in terms of the Back to school choice on them or or somebody in their their lives.
Yeah, and I will say in 2018, The Wall Street Journal credited the victory of Rhonda Santas to school choice moms. They call them school choice moms. Andrew Gilliam, his opponent came out strong against the scholarships. I think he said some long lines that he was going to take away scholarships. In Florida, they already had over 100,000 scholarships that were being used to attend private schools. And these are disproportionately lower income families, the average family student using a scholarship to attend a private school at the K to 12 level through the Florida tax credit scholarship program, latest data suggests that they come from household incomes of around 27 $28,000 total. And so when when families have that benefit, they start to make school choice, a primary voting issue. And so you got you know, a lot of these families who would have statistically been more likely to vote for the Democrat, once they heard that he was going to take their children's educational setting that's working for them away. They said, Okay, well, I'm gonna they turned out in large numbers for the other guy that was going to protect their ability to choose their children's education. So they made school choice a voting issue. And I think that's why teachers unions are so afraid of any proposal to to empower families, because the unions know that once people get a little bit of a taste of educational freedom, they'll fight like how to prevent any of the teachers union monopoly, from ripping that away from them. And so the unions know that the families will become this new kind of special interest in the K through 12. setting where, one, even when you get your foot in the door with a small program, that's likely to increase over time because those families are going to fight to keep it and other families are going to say, Oh, this isn't so bad, the public school didn't, it didn't just get destroyed, actually, they're doing a lot better because of competitive pressures. And then it's easier to make the case to expand the program. Going forward, I will say there was an interesting story in the Washington Examiner, by a student that use the Florida tax credit scholarship program, I think their name was Elijah. And they highlight a story of this student that said that that it was a they were an LGBTQ student. I don't remember their preferred pronoun. But but they had made the case, or the argument that they were feeling like, they were just so bullied in the public school setting, that the scholarship actually saved their life. So this is another reason why I think it's important not to regulate these programs based on standardized test score results, when something like being bullied everyday might not get translated into the into an evaluation that academics are doing at their desks. And they don't, they can't really see what's going on, on on on the ground with the individual students. So I thought that was a story that was very interesting to me. Another one is from one of my colleagues actually at the American Federation for children, Walter Blake blanks, Jr. He actually was a beneficiary of a voucher program in Ohio. And he, he credits that program to saving his life, I believe, for similar types of reasons. There was more bullying going on in the public school setting. And he's been very successful, spreading the word with school choice, he actually had a round table, meaning he was included in a viral video with former President Trump. And I think one of the interesting clips was when he Trump was asking everybody what they wanted to do when they when they grew up. And Walter said something along the lines like I'm coming for your job, because he wants to go into politic politics going forward. So those are just a couple of stories.
It's important to tell those stories, right? Because at the end of the day, this is this is the real story that people care about, because they want to see not just the positive outcomes, but they also want to make sure that Yeah, are those worst case scenarios, actually, the worst case scenarios, and I think 2020, Cory, was a resounding yes to a lot of those worst case scenarios. Across the board. I just had Tiffany justice on the program. She's from moms for liberty, and just the number of parents who are irate. I mean, it was 26 states 80 plus chapters for an organization that's just under a year old. Wow. I mean, that speaks to that. There are people out there right now, who they saw firsthand that when push came to shove, their public schooling system just adamantly failed and just across the board, And they are looking for these solutions. So as we go towards the end of the show, Cory, let's focus on this. When you're going out and you're talking to people, what are you finding is the best pitch, if you will, to pique interest? to get people to say, Yes, I would like to learn more about school choice. Is it something along the lines of specifically asking about that person, as we've talked about today? And figuring out what their needs are in terms of are they just a taxpayer? Do they have kids in the system? Or is there something else that you're finding? That's actually getting people to say, Cory, tell me more?
Well, it really depends on who I'm talking to. If I'm talking to someone on the right, I'll talk about competition and how the public schools may not be providing an adequate education. Or maybe they're indoctrinating the kids in a way that they that they don't agree with. If I'm talking to someone on the left, it'll be more about a conversation about equity, that advantaged families already have school choice, they can already afford to live in neighborhoods that tend to be residentially assigned to the best public schools are more likely to be able to afford to pay out of pocket for private school tuition and fees, and more likely to be able to afford the costs of adequate home based education funding students directly allows more families to access these types of alternatives. And in that way, school choice is an equalizer. So really, yeah, you want to talk to see who you're talking to, and to see what's important to them. But at the same time, I think, regardless of political background, I think the most compelling argument has been look, in the public school system, we spend $16,000, on average per student, that money should follow the child's wherever they're getting an education, we should fund students directly, just like we do with Pell grants for higher education and with pre k programs where we don't residentially assign families to a government run institution, regardless of their choice. We fund the people directly. And that works for both sides. Look, I mean, when you're talking to someone from from the left, they're more likely to support these programs like food stamps, and Pell Grants and pre k programs. So that's a really easy argument to make. But at the same time, when you apply this logic, to a conversation with someone that's more from the right, this isn't an argument about whether we should have food stamps, or whether we should have Pell grants or whether we should have pre k programs at all. It's an argument about, look, we have the funding, we're already allocating towards these programs, if we're going to have these programs at all, the funding should go to people, and it should follow them to wherever they would like to take those dollars, as long as it's an approved provider of educational services. And it doesn't have to be a conversation about well, do you like food stamps read do not like food stamps. It's just getting, I think getting people to understand the logic of funding students directly is the most powerful argument.
I think my audience is smiling because they know exactly what I'm gonna say. And they're gonna say, yeah, we get it, Brian, as you and Chris Goyzueta. always talk about know your audience and meet people where they're at the idea that Oh, hey, guess what the reason I'm having you on the show, Cory is because not only are you living by that, but you're actually showing it works. You're not only getting people, as I said, at the beginning of the show, to pay attention to school choice, but you're now getting policy into action, and you're making people's lives better, how empowering that is to know that we have the ability when we know how to effectively communicate these ideas and these solutions to your average person, that we can really make a difference. So how about this, my friend? As we're wrapping up, Cory, what would you want to make sure the audience takes away from today's conversation, anything you you want to make sure you leave them with?
We should fund students not systems. And on that note, if you want to help the fight for funding, students directly go to fund students, not systems.org fund students, not systems.org. And you can track bills that are in your state to do just that, and to empower more families, because that's where the action really is. I mean, I think we've got the battle. I think we're victorious when it comes to the logical arguments of funding students directly. But we need to take that next step, which a lot of states have done this year 19 states have expanded or enacted programs to fund students directly and we're calling this the year of school choice, but we need to continue that momentum. And the best way to do that is to track the bills that are in play in your particular state. For example, just a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania, a legislator out there, Andrew Lewis introduced something House Bill one, which is a universal education savings account program, the purest form of funding students, not systems, but where you have to pressure the legislators and call and email your legislators to let them know That they should take votes on these things. And because if they don't get a vote, nothing is actually going to happen on the ground. So if you want to import power more families, again, go to fun students, not systems.org. So you can track all of this activity,
fun students, not systems, folks, if you also want to go ahead, by the way, and get that awesome t shirt that Corey was rocking there earlier in the episode. There it is. That's right. I will make sure I include that link in the show notes. But also, we have a bunch of other fun students not systems, swag from garden flags to protest signs, all that in between. We'll include that link there in the show notes. But with that being said, it's always a blast having you on Cory, thank you for fighting the good fight. And actually taking the ideas. We talked about bringing them to people right now where they are seeing the problems and offering solutions. Thank you for all you're doing with that being said, Cory de Angeles. Thanks for joining the program.
And thank you so much for having me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
National Director of Research
Corey DeAngelis is the national director of research at the American Federation for Children, the executive director at Educational Freedom Institute, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation. He was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work on education policy and received the Buckley Award from America’s Future in 2020.