Democrat Lawmaker Speaks Out for School Choice
Tennessee State Rep. John DeBerry is a Democrat who has been honored for his school choice advocacy. Here are his remarks from a recent White House Education Freedom Roundtable.
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary DeVos, I appreciate being here. And I appreciate the fact that you're going to shepherd this thing through that we've been talking about for so many years. As we put a face on this with these young folks sitting around the table who've already spoken, too often the kids get lost—they’re data, they're statistics, they're numbers. But they put a face on it. I've heard many times when we talked about school choice over the years that we're going to cherry-pick and you're going to get the best students and things of this sort. My answer has always been then let's put more cherries on the tree.
The fact of the matter is if we cherry pick a young man who can prepare himself one day to come to the White House or young men and women who can go to medical school, these kids will be left out. Because everybody cherry picks—every medical school, every law school, every university—they go for the best and the brightest. What we've got to do is make sure they are among the best and the brightest, and that's why I support education choice.
I've heard many times when we talked about school choice over the years that we're going to cherry-pick and you're going to get the best students and things of this sort. My answer has always been then let's put more cherries on the tree.
When the young men spoke about many of his colleagues, Mr. President, the schoolhouse to jail house pipeline is wide open. Thank God for criminal justice reform that's possibly going to help some of these folks. Hopefully we can interdict with education to keep them from going [to prison].
And before I stop, my eldest daughter is an attorney—she passed the bar the first time. When she was in the second grade, she was going to a neighborhood school that she was assigned to. She came home with a note on her jacket one day. We went to the school, and my wife, who’s deceased now, said, “What's this about?” The teacher said, “Your child can't read.” And my wife said, “Well that's funny; she could read when I sent her to you.” And what we realized was that school was not living up to what we expected for our child. I asked that my child be transferred from that class. They said no. I asked that she be transferred from that school. They said no. I went that same day and got a second job. I put her in a private school and we paid tuition because she was my responsibility.
Parents want the right to make that choice for their children. They don't want anybody else to make that choice for them. They pay taxes. Many of them are veterans. They paid for homes. They've worked hard. They just want to say, “I want my kid to go to this school because I want them on a par with everybody else.” I thank you so much again for what you've done. I hope you will continue until this gets passed.