01/2003 The Friedman Report: An Advocate in Action

Published January 1, 2003

Dan McGroarty always has a catchy title for his incisive works that tear apart voucher opponents’ arguments and expose misinformation campaigns directed against parental freedom of choice: “Gameplan: The Teachers’ Unions’ Strategy for Defeating the Voucher Movement,” “Voucher Wars,” and recently, “The Blaine Game” and “The Red Tape Wars.”

McGroarty’s talent with language led him from graduate school to writing commentary for the Voice of America, and into the White House speechwriting office under President George H.W. Bush. He has also been the behind-the-scenes wordsmith for such public officials as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Senator Frank Carlucci.

Today, McGroarty writes from his home office in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a “converted back bedroom with enough electronic equipment to run a local phone company, with a small sign hanging on the knob reading GO AWAY,” he said. “Which I mean in the nicest sense.” McGroarty is now senior director of the White House Writers Group, founded with colleagues from his Bush administration days.

As a young White House speechwriter, McGroarty had the opportunity to meet Milwaukee’s passionate school choice crusader, Polly Williams. “I was immediately fascinated with the Milwaukee story,” he said.

After Bush Senior’s defeat in 1992, McGroarty says his time was freed up to get a book on school choice “off the drawing board and onto paper.” That book, Break These Chains: The Battle for School Choice (Prima), was published in 1996. The title was inspired by a quote from Polly Williams: “We’ve got to break these chains before the system turns our children into slaves.”

His next book, Trinnietta Gets a Chance: Six Families and Their School Choice Experiences (The Heritage Foundation, 2001), put a human face on school choice at a time when abstract legal and constitutional principles were being debated in the U.S. Supreme Court. Since his side won that argument in June 2002, McGroarty has focused his energies on combating lies about school choice propagated by teacher unions and other foes. He has written a series of briefs for the Friedman Foundation on accountability of private schools and misuse of the archaic Blaine Amendments by opponents of school choice at the state level.

McGroarty’s philosophy of school choice is one of an empathetic parent. A father of four, he and his wife Jacky have chosen public schools for their children. McGroarty himself attended public schools, K-12.

“The difference is the choice I have, due to economic circumstances, to move my kids to a private school should it seem to offer a course of study or pedagogical approach better suited to my child,” he said. He cannot see why he should have this privilege that lower-income families lack.

“My personal experience buttresses my policy preference for programs that provide the same freedom and flexibility to all families–removing income, or lack of it, as an obstacle to choice,” he explained.

Indeed, McGroarty’s reverence for the Constitution informs his view on school choice as an issue of fundamental equity of opportunity. “Public education,” he said, “on a philosophical level means an education that serves and advances the public interest in a literate citizenry.

“Nothing in the democratic DNA of this nation demands that our only form of education should be state-run schools; indeed the democratic principle argues for independent options and alternatives, in which private choice contributes to the public good.”

For more information …

Dan McGroarty’s 1996 book, Break These Chains, is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0761505075/theheartlandinst