It’s another persistent myth about expanding school choice: Ethnic and religious groups will retreat into walled-off camps that are more insular and intolerant. Society will splinter. Democracy will crumble.
Rabbi Moshe Matz offers a polite rebuttal. “The reality is that an educated population is bound to be the force for greater democracy and greater embracing of unity in a society,” Matz, a school choice stalwart in Florida, says in the redefinED podcast interview below. “Look around. Tyranny always feeds off the uneducated.”
Matz, 39, is director of Agudath Israel of Florida, which represents roughly 100 rabbis and synagogues. In 2010, he was literally front and center when 5,000 people marched in Tallahassee to support an expansion of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. Last school year, 27 Jewish schools participated in the program, with 778 students on scholarship.
Matz’s comments are especially timely now. Conversation about school choice in the Jewish community spiked a bit in the spring after a provocative op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by author and pundit Peter Beinart. Jews in America could strengthen Jewish identify by shoring up Jewish schools, he wrote – and vouchers would be vital to that effort.
The past few months have also seen a steady stream of anti-Muslim comments in school choice debates, including a state lawmaker in Louisiana who said she regretted voting for that state’s new voucher program because she now fears it will promote Islam. Matz called such comments unfortunate and a distraction.
“The argument can’t stray away from the real issue here, which is parental choice,” he said. “Concerns like this are going to be out there, like they are probably for many other choices that parents are going to make for what’s the best education for their child. But ultimately, I think that you can’t allow these types of things to distract us from the ultimate goal.”