To swing Gen-Z, the GOP must showcase school choice in 2023  | The Hill

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The Republican Party has had a rough start to 2023. After the red wave failed to flood the nation last fall, the party needed a win. Instead, the debacle regarding the House

Speaker position coincided with the George Santos scandal — hardly the rebound Republicans were hoping for. 

These mishaps have only contributed to the alienation of younger generations, and many within the party are worried: Disappointing midterm elections results will be the least of the party’s worries should they lose Generation Z, those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s.

With the state legislature season starting, the Republican Party should take this opportunity to sway young voters by promoting issues relevant to Gen-Z. Education freedom – an issue too often neglected by politicians on the left and with a growing following from new voters – is the best place to start.

For too long, the Republican Party has punted on the top issues that matter to Gen-Z, such as climate change and gun violence, assuming young people wouldn’t vote anyways. But the midterms showed there is a price to pay for ignoring Gen-Z as data suggest voters aged 18-29 supported Democratic House candidates over their Republican counterparts by nearly 30 points.

But all is not lost for the GOP. Gen-Z voters would respond well to the GOP if the party were to communicate characteristically commonsense arguments on issues that matter most to young people. Although the Democratic Party has monopolized Gen-Z issues and votes, many Democratic politicians have left education choice up for grabs. The GOP ought to capitalize on the issues where they have common ground with Gen-Z, such as inequitable education opportunities — one of the most important national issues to Gen-Z. 

A recent Walton Family Foundation poll reports that 71 percent of Gen-Zers believe every child deserves access to a high-quality education, suggesting that education choice could be a determining issue for the next generation. This shouldn’t be surprising as many young voters have directly benefited from the ed-choice movement through using a school voucher or attending a charter school.

But the GOP continues to shoot itself in the foot, telling parts of the party “to get the hell out” or being preoccupied with rumors about election denial. Instead of playing footsie with conspiracies, party members ought to tone back divisiveness and showcase solutions they have championed that have directly impacted my generation. 

There is room for converts on this issue, too, as many in Gen-Z are unfamiliar with the wide variety of educational choice policies. A 2019 report by EdChoice found younger voters “are more likely to be unfamiliar with certain types of educational choice reforms than others.” Moreover, “one-third of Gen Z or Millennials were unfamiliar with education savings accounts” or ESAs — one of the newest types of education freedom programs, described as the gold standard of educational choice programs. 

Low familiarity with certain educational choice policies should be unacceptable for the political party that has vigorously carried the torch of education freedom for families. The GOP has communicated the policy’s efficacy to voters for decades. And with National School Choice week coming at the end of the month, now is an ideal time for Republicans to launch a nationwide media campaign to promote education freedom. 

Govs. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-Ark.) Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) and many others have each endorsed school choice legislation, and many rising stars in state legislatures across the country have already filed school choice bills on behalf of students.

Simple communications adjustments to emphasize shared issues with so-called “Zoomers” could gain their votes in future elections. Furthermore, if the party were to take a more proactive approach on social media, communicating how passing education choice policies increases opportunities for young people, they might make inroads with Gen-Z to the point where they will stick around to hear GOP arguments on other issues. 

Nevertheless, disappointing results will become standard in future elections if the GOP fails to communicate its solutions to issues relevant to my generation. The GOP doesn’t need a complete revamping. Instead, it needs to recognize that the kids my age are alright — they just need better information. 

Cooper Conway is a member of 50CAN’s 2022 National Voices Fellowship, a scholar-in-residence at the Student Award Center and a contributor at Young Voices, where he focuses on education reform.


charter schools

education choice

education savings accounts

Gen Z

Generation Z in the United States

school choice

Young voters

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