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Rural Republicans Shouldn’t Fear School Choice

By: Tom Newell

This op-ed originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Former Oklahoma State Representative Tom Newell of EFA coalition partner yes. every kid. explained why rural Republicans should embrace school choice to ensure benefits for its students.

Seminole, Okla.
Republicans around the country have made great strides on education freedom in recent years. But in some states—especially Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama—rural Republican politicians have been an obstacle to progress. They’re worried about the politics and the practicality of school choice, but I’m here to tell them they have nothing to worry about and everything to gain.

I was elected to the Oklahoma House in 2010. My district, centered in Seminole County, is mostly rural, with about 38,000 residents. When I was first elected, we had 14 school systems, most of which enrolled a few hundred students. Public schools provide a common local identity in rural communities. Their sports teams—especially football and basketball in Oklahoma—are a particular source of pride. People don’t want to weaken their local school.


Fourteen years after I ran for office, I’m more convinced than ever that school choice is the right policy for rural communities. In fact, I now believe school choice is an antidote to rural decline. In the era of remote work, the lack of educational options keeps families who might otherwise prefer to live in a rural area from moving out of the big city. Every rural Republican wants his district to thrive. Their best bet, by far, is to back education freedom for all.

Mr. Newell, a former Oklahoma state representative, is vice president of government affairs at yes. every kid.


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