Debates about school choice tend to bring out the best, and the worst, in politicians. An example of the worst would be the former chairman of the Colorado state House Education Committee, Rep. Mike Merrifield. In an email, he wrote, “There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherizers.” For emphasis, he added, “They deserve it!”
On the other side stood Tulsa state Rep. Jabar Shumate, also a black Democrat. Shelton and Shumate had several exchanges on the merits, the former on the attack, the latter in respectful defense. Shelton opposed the bill through the end. But he also gave a gracious introduction to charter school students and patrons, many of them his constituents, seated in the state House gallery during the debate.
Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill. Republican House Speaker Lance Cargill predicted, “The greatest civil rights and social justice issue of the 21st century will be access to a quality education.”