Ep. 56: School Choice in Pop Culture – The West Wing

July 10, 2018

We are excited to kick off a new video and podcast series—School Choice in Pop Culture—where our team chats about how school choice is represented in popular TV shows and movies. In this episode, two fans of The West Wing, our Director of National Research Mike McShane and our CRM and Email Marketing Manager Abby Hayes, discuss four clips from the popular early-2000s television series. In the show, the U.S. president, his staff and the District of Columbia’s mayor are debating whether to enact a pilot school voucher program in D.C.

For the best experience, watch the video, which includes clips from the show and fun fact pop-ups.

Mike McShane: Alright, greetings and welcome to another edition of EdChoice Chats. Today’s episode is going to be a little different. We’re not going to be talking necessarily about the new research study that’s coming out, or if you’re used to my cool schools podcast, we’re not actually going to be talking about cool schools. This podcast is part of a new series that we’re doing, where we look at school choice and education policy in pop culture.

Hello, youths. Hope this is interesting to you. No, we were talking, it was actually a really fun conversation that we had around the office one day. It was thinking about different ways in which we can sort of, talk to people about school choice. We spend a lot of time doing research, but that can be kind of inaccessible. We talk about politics, and that turns a lot of people off. What if we talked about it via pop culture, because it actually pops up in a few different places.

Katie Brooks, who, you’re able to see us here on camera … She is actually behind camera right now. We might … No, we’re not? Okay, we won’t spin it around. She was the mastermind of all of this, and she actually sent an email list around to the office and said, “What would you be interested in writing about?” I have to say, basically as soon as she hit send, I think Abby and I shot back like, The West Wing. We should totally talk about The West Wing. This is part of a longer series where other people will talk about the shows that they are passionate about.

I am joined today by the one and only, Abby Hayes. Now, you may not be as familiar with Abby, if you listen to our podcast. If you get our emails … Basically, if you get any form of communication from us, Abby played a large part in making that happen. She does all of the work getting out our ideas, both good and bad, to the broader world. Abby, it’ great to be on the podcast with you today.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, you too.

Mike McShane: I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Maybe we’ll start with The West Wing in general. When did you start watching The West Wing? Why do you like The West Wing?

Abby Hayes: Sure, I’m kind of a late-comer, actually. It finished up in 2006, and I am just now on the last season. I started watching it during maternity leave-

Mike McShane: No spoilers.

Abby Hayes: Right? No spoilers. I started watching it during my maternity leave about 18 months ago, and have just sort of been slowly working my way through. It’s a nice comforting show to put on while you’re washing the dishes.

Mike McShane: It is. They’re walking and talking …

Abby Hayes: It’s just great.

Mike McShane:  The orchestra rises and falls.

Abby Hayes: Yes, and all of the characters are just … I just love how character driven it is. CJ Creg is my favorite.

Mike McShane: Really?

Abby Hayes: Yeah, I love C.J.

Mike McShane: I’m trying to think. I think I’m a Sam Seaborn guy.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, Sam is pretty great.

Mike McShane: I like his optimism. I like his idealism.

It’s interesting, because this is actually a perfect sort of segue, because what we’re going to do is talk about a couple of these scenes from The West Wing that actually touch on vouchers. It was something as like, an education policy dork, that bothered me about a lot of The West Wing, with respect to education. Is it seemed like they did these really deep dives in a lot of other areas, but were kind of glib about education.

What was it, like, Jed Bartlett’s big plan was like 100,000 teachers. We’re like, okay. I think … Have you gotten to the point where Matt Santos is running for president?

His big education idea was like, “Go to school for more days.”

You’re like, “Can we do a little bit more than that?” One of these places where they actually met with some nuance was talking about school vouchers.

My personal favorite, Sam Seaborn, is about to discuss them. The first scene that I think we’re going to look at here is Sam debating Mallory. Is Mallory … Does she have the same last name as Leo? Does she have a different last name?

Abby Hayes: You know, I don’t know.

Mike McShane: Anyways, so Mallory, Leo’s daughter. Her aunt also shows up in the series, because I think she’s supposed to be the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools.

Abby Hayes: I forgot about that. Yeah. I had forgotten about that.

Mike McShane: Clearly, public education, really big deal in the McGarry family. We’ll kick this one off, and we’ll talk about it afterwards. This is Sam and Mallory debating school vouchers.

Abby Hayes: Yes, and just for context, Sam wants to take Mallory out on a date.

Mike McShane: Yeah, that is a very important bit of context to this.


Clip 1 Transcribed

Mallory: Tax dollars should go to fixing public schools, not aiding the shipment of students to private schools, many of which are religious. By the way, I don’t know how you’re getting around the separation of church and state on that one.

Sam:  We have people on the payroll who are experts at obfuscating the constitution.

Mallory: So I’ve noticed.

Sam: Anything else?

Mallory: Oh, yes.

Sam: We’ve been here for an hour, Mallory.

Mallory: School vouchers provide help for only a few students.

Sam: We’re offering a solution for that.

Mallory: You’re offering a lifeboat to the select few for whom vouchers will make any kind of difference.

Sam: Mallory, everything you’re saying makes sense, I just think the state of urban schools is such that if you can save even one kid …

Mallory: You can save more than one kid.

Sam: Tell me how.

Mallory: By asking congress to approve not just a little, but a lot more money for public education. What?

Sam: Public education has been a public policy disaster for 40 years. Having spent around four trillion dollars on public schools since 1965, the result has been a steady and inexorable decline in every measurable standard of student performance, to say nothing of health and safety. But don’t worry about it, because the US House of Representatives is on the case. I feel better already.

Mallory: Wow.


Mike McShane: Wow, indeed. Right, so the other bit of context here, which I think is going to show up later …

Abby Hayes: Yes.

Mike McShane: Is that Sam doesn’t actually believe what he’s saying. For reasons that somewhat escape me, he’s not letting her in on the fact that he doesn’t actually believe these things.

Abby Hayes: He’s basically trolling her.

Mike McShane: I think he’s basically trolling her. I think that’s right.

Abby Hayes: Yeah. I actually remember watching this scene, because I’m pretty sure it was really late, or I … I think I was still on maternity leave at the point, so I hadn’t seen like, regular people for quite a while. I was watching it, and I got on Slack, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, Sam Seaborn is arguing for school choice.” Later, I was like … Bummer.

Mike McShane: He turns this around … Maybe, let’s talk about some of that stuff. What stood out for you in that with the arguments that they were making?

Abby Hayes: Oh, sure. The constitutionality thing is one that comes up a ton. We hear about it all the time. Separation of church and state. Ultimately what the supreme court has rules is that vouchers are giving parents money, and then parents are deciding to pay the money to private schools that may or may not teach religion based on their own preferences. It’s not like the government is forcing anybody into church led schools.

Mike McShane: Yeah, for sure. I think that the same thing’s true, people take Medicaid dollars to religious hospitals.

Abby Hayes: Exactly.

Mike McShane: They take Pell grants and the GI bill to religious colleges. It’s the exact same idea. I was thinking of one … It’s interesting that she goes to Congress needs to appropriate a bunch of money to save schools. Part of it, it’s like, well, Mallory … it’s weird explaining this to a fictional character. But, Mallory, it turns out the federal government actually spends a very small portion of all the money that’s spent on education. Most of those dollars come from states and localities. Even if the federal government doubled, or tripled, or quadrupled the amount of money that it spent, it would actually be a very small portion as opposed to what everybody else does.

Abby Hayes: Yeah. What Sam says is true too. We have seen that school budgets and per student spending has gone up enormously in the past several decades, and results haven’t gone up as well.

Mike McShane: Yeah. I think that’s the challenge that we’ve done some great work here … Ben [inaudible 00:07:39], back to the staffing surge. You know, I’m totally open to the idea, and I think that there is some compelling research, that obviously money and student outcomes are related to one another. Ultimately, it comes down to how that money is being spent. What Ben has been able to document pretty well is, when we see these large increases in funding, a bunch of that money gets spent on administrators, and support staff, and people … I don’t think we have a plausible reason to think that they would necessarily directly affect student learning.

Abby Hayes: Yeah.

Mike McShane: Mallory, I kind of agree with you. I’m not opposed to spending more money on education, but using the federal government is like the bluntest tool to do that. If we’re going to do this, maybe we should think about how we’re spending that money and trying to leverage it towards kids that need it the most.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, and the other thing that stands out to me in Mallory’s argument is that lifeboat argument. That one that sort of touches my heart a little bit. I live in a pretty low income community. A lot of the families in our area are stuck in underperforming public schools, or just schools that are not a good fit for them. There are a lot who are able to use Indiana’s voucher and go to schools like the Oaks Academy, which we’ve featured on our podcast and on our blog before, that does an excellent job of educating kids from diverse backgrounds. For me, it’s like yeah Mallory, I understand maybe we’re not reaching every single kid in my neighborhood. But the ones that we are, it’s making a huge difference for them. That’s work worth doing.

Mike McShane: Totally. It’s totally easy to say we shouldn’t have lifeboats when you don’t need the lifeboat, right?

Abby Hayes: Exactly.

Mike McShane: As long as you’re talking about other people’s kids, that’s right. When those kids have names and faces, and potential, maybe that lifeboat looks a little bit more appealing.

Abby Hayes: Exactly.

Mike McShane: Alright, do we want to go to the next clip?

Abby Hayes: Sure. Let’s move on.

Mike McShane: Right on.

Abby Hayes: Sam’s going to pull a bait and switch on us.

Mike McShane: Uh oh. Oh, this is the debate prep one.

Abby Hayes: Oh, is that the wrong one? Oh, there. There it is.

Mike McShane: Okay. This is the rest of … This is picking up on their debate later.

Abby Hayes: Yes.

Mike McShane: This is where the rouse …

Abby Hayes: Mallory drags Leo into it.

Mike McShane: The ruse becomes apparent.


Clip 2 Transcribed

Leo: Yeah, hold on please.

Mallory: Dad, I’m sorry, but Sam asked me to have lunch with him, and I need your permission.

Leo: Hang on. What do you need my permission to have lunch for?

Mallory: Sam …

Sam: She said she always asks her father’s permission before she has lunch with fascists.

Leo: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Mallory: He’s in favor of school vouchers, Dad.

Leo: No, Mallory. He’s really not.

Mallory: Yes, he is.

Leo: No, he’s not.

Mallory: I read the position paper.

Leo: It’s opposition prep.

Mallory: Opposition prep?

Leo: When we’re gearing up for a debate, we have the smart guys take the other side.

Mallory: You stood there and argued with me.

Sam: Yes.

Mallory: Why?

Sam:  You made an appointment.

Mallory: Sam.

Leo: Would the two of you take it outside?

Sam: I thought you were trying to drive a wedge between us.

Leo: Yeah, but now you’re just boring the crap out of me.

Mallory: Hey …

Sam: Mallory, education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teacher should be fierce. They should be making six figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it, yet.


Mike McShane: Look at that look. Look at that look.

Abby Hayes: Right?

Mike McShane: That’s some acting right there.

Abby Hayes: Yeah.

Mike McShane: Okay, so how do you respond? What do you see in there, other than obviously the very clever rouse that ultimately, I guess, worked.

Abby Hayes: I think it worked. At least temporarily. We’ll see, Sam.

Mike McShane: Yeah.

Abby Hayes: I think that we agree with Sam, that education is the silver bullet. That’s why we’re here. We’re here because we think that this makes a difference. We think that things need to change, we just think that that needs to be done through means other than the federal government turning schools into palaces.

Mike McShane: That’s the thing, is it’s sort of … It is sort of interesting, this idea of like we want schools to be palaces. I’m like actually …

Abby Hayes: Some of the best schools that I know of don’t have fabulous faculties.

Mike McShane: I want awesome instruction happening-

Abby Hayes: Yes, good teachers.

Mike McShane: Obviously I want schools to be nice, and safe, and whatever. If I were listing my things of what I want schools to be, like palaces wouldn’t necessarily be top of the list.

Abby Hayes: Yeah.

Mike McShane: Then they talk about teachers. Again, I think that this is important. There’s been a lot of this stuff in the news recently, teachers strikes and others. That in many states across the country, teachers are totally getting a raw deal. They are not being paid what they’re worth, and we’re not putting the value on them that we should.

Abby Hayes: Sure.

Mike McShane: I think that’s full stop, absolutely true.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, and you say this as a former teacher.

Mike McShane: I say this as a former teacher myself, from a whole family of teachers. Yeah. Now, that said, we have to think about what types of systems might better lead to higher teacher pay. Right?

Abby Hayes: Yeah.

Mike McShane: One thing is that the more money we spend that gets eaten up by the bureaucracy, federal bureaucracy, state bureaucracy, district bureaucracy, even sometimes within school bureaucracy. That’s less money that can go to teachers. In some ways, I want to say, Sam, there may be a better way to get to where you want to go. That is to try and cut down on a lot of this bureaucracy. One of the reasons I like school choice and why I think school vouchers are actually a good response to the argument that they’re making here, is they promote more efficiently operated schools. The schools that participate in them, if you go into your average voucher receiving school in the state of Indiana and you look around for a bunch of administrators, or a bunch of other [inaudible 00:13:09], you really don’t see that as often.

Abby Hayes: We’ve seen that in charters too, that they’ve definitely come up with some operating efficiencies there as well.

Mike McShane: For me, as much as possible, if those dollars can be pushed down to the teacher level to actually be spent in the classroom …

Abby Hayes: Sure.

Mike McShane: I think that’s something we should definitely support.

Abby Hayes: That’s been something fun too, with your cool schools podcast, I go through the transcriptions of all the podcasts, so I’m totally on top of them. It’s just been interesting what teachers have come up with, different ways to do education that is not possible necessarily within the public system. If it were, it would take a lot more pushing and a lot more work, and you’d still be more restricted. As opposed to going, starting your own private school. That’s awesome. The teachers are doing incredible things.

Mike McShane: I think that’s a great point, and that all of these rules and regulations that we write on schools all get stacked on top of one another. We have federal regulations, we have state regulations, and we have district regulations, and teachers and administrators that are trying to do their best to keep up with that get caught up in all of that. They have to spend a bunch of time just complying with all the different things. They have competing mandates. It’s a mess.

Mike McShane: You know what, Sam, maybe that’s the silver bullet. Maybe let’s try and cut some of that stuff out, and one way to do that might be school choice. Just throwing it out there. Alright, we good to go to the next one?

Abby Hayes: We’re good.

Mike McShane: This next one is a short one.


Clip 3 Transcribed

Sam: Sir, you oppose the voucher system that would offer children a choice of better schools.

Jed: That would offer some children a choice of better schools, but I haven’t given up the ghost on better schools for everybody. Vouchers drain money from that goal.


Mike McShane: Boom. Thirty second answer. There it is.

Abby Hayes: Sure, sure.

Mike McShane: Right? This is that scene where they’re looking for all the different … They’re trying to find those little quick answers to things.

Abby Hayes: They’re hammering him pretty hard.

Mike McShane: It’s interesting though, because this is an argument that I think we still hear today.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, totally.

Mike McShane: When you hear that, what does that make you think?

Abby Hayes: I think there’s two pieces to it. One is the financial piece, which we have tons and tons of data on. The other is this idea of better schools for all children. When I hear that, I think that people have this idea that there can be one perfect school that fits every kid, and that’s just not the case. I have two kids of my own. My son is really young, he’s not school age yet, but there’s a pretty good chance based on their personalities and how I think they’re probably going to learn that they’ll wind up at different schools. It doesn’t mean one school is worse or better than the other. It just means one’s a good fit for my daughter, and the other’s a good fit for my son.

I think when we talk about that, we don’t necessarily talk about better schools and every kid being able to go to the perfect zip code assigned school. We talk about better fit for individual kids.

Mike McShane: For sure. That’s always that line of what’s it… I haven’t given up. We have the transcripts here. By the way, turns out you can look up West Wing transcripts, and you can search for all of this stuff. Someone took the time to digitize all this. Even though from the way the website looks, it looks like it was a few years ago, but good for them. That would offer some children a choice of better schools, but I haven’t given up the ghost on better schools for everybody. Well, again, sort of like Mallory and her lifeboat, that’s easy for you to say when you … What was it? Governor or New Hampshire, and Congressman, and has the turkey carving knife from Paul Revere. It’s like, with these things are all this abstract idea, sure. It’s like, oh they … Again, it doesn’t drain money from public schools. We have done so much research, just like what she said, showing that in these cases, districts, states can be financially better off as a resort of this.

Mike McShane: Yeah, this holding out for this concept of public education, at the expense of actual children. Right? There are actual children who want a better option, and for this abstract ideal, they would deny them that.

Abby Hayes: Yes, and I think your point is right that he’s speaking from a position of relative privilege. I love Judd Bartlett, he is one of my favorite people in fictional life, but he is speaking from privilege and I don’t think that he knows that until the next scene that we’re going to draw in, actually-

Mike McShane: Perfect segue.

Abby Hayes: This is a perfect segue.

Mike McShane: Abby. Alright, we’re playing the last one.

Abby Hayes: This is a longer one too.

Mike McShane: Yeah, and this shows up in two parts.

Abby Hayes: Yes.

Mike McShane: To set the stage, this is the mayor of Washington D.C. and Josh Lyman discussing school vouchers.

Abby Hayes: Yes, and this is similar to what actually happened, right?

Mike McShane: Yes.

Abby Hayes: This is playing on real life events that were near this time. I don’t know the dates.

Mike McShane: Yeah, right around the same time.


Clip 4 Transcribed

Josh: So, the president wants to issue a joint statement with you opposing the voucher rider on the snow removal appropriation.

Mayor: But I want the money.

Josh: We’ll get it for you eventually. We’ll just have to go through at least one round of the president vetoing it in order for us to get them to clean bill with no vouchers attached.

Mayor: I want the voucher money too.

Josh: Huh?

Mayor: I’d like the president to sign the bill with the vouchers.

Josh: Mr. Mayor, he’s vetoed every school vouchers bill they’ve sent him.

Mayor: I know, but this is just a pilot program. Little voucher experiment, help pay for maybe a couple hundred kids to go to private school out of 68,000 in the DC public school system.

Josh: We’re against vouchers, period. By we, I mean the entire Democratic party. You’re still a Democrat, right?

Mayor: This bill got four Democratic votes in the senate and 42 in the house. Look, it wasn’t my idea to put Congress in control of the DC budget.

Josh: Then help us fight them on this.

Mayor: Why don’t you help me get some kids a better education?

Mayor: I’m sorry, Mr. President, but we can argue this all night and I’m not going to change my mind, again. I’m not the only one. My school board president changed her mind too.

Josh: [inaudible 00:18:53]-

Mayor: Scott.

Josh: She’s in favor of vouchers now? She used to rail against them.

Mayor: After six years of us promising to make schools better next year, we’re ready to give vouchers a try. We’re ready to give anything a try.

Jed: You start handing out tuition vouchers for private schools, you’re sending the message that it’s time to give up on public schools.

Mayor: With all due respect, Mr. President, no one gets to talk to me about giving up on public schools. I assume I’m the only one in this room who actually went to public school.

Jed: And you couldn’t be a better advertisement for them.

Mayor: Kids weren’t bringing guns to school in my day.

Jed: Republicans want to spend more on DC education, they should spend it on public schools.

Mayor: We spend over $13,000 per student. That’s more than anywhere else in the country, and we don’t have a lot to show for it.

Jed: If we start diverting money away from public schools, that’s the beginning of the end of public education.

Mayor: This is extra money the republicans will give me only for school vouchers, nothing else.

Jed: They’re just using you to try and divide the party.

Mayor: I’m the only mayor in America whose budget is controlled by Congress and the President. You guys never miss a chance to play political games with the city I’m trying to run.

Jed: Your honor, I’m not trying to tell you how to run your city.

Mayor: Yes you are, Mr. President. Congress is too, and I resent it. This time, they want to give me money for something that might actually help some students. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to refuse that.

Jed: This is a pilot program?

Josh: Enough money for a couple hundred students.

Mayor: I have a few thousand names on a waiting list for vouchers already. Go into any one of my schools. Ask kids who want to go to college what they think of vouchers. They’ll ask you where they can sign up.

Jed: Could you ask Charlie to come in please? You tell us where you went to high school?

Charlie: Roosevelt.

Jed: A public school.

Charlie: Yes, sir.

Mayor: Where’d you want to go to school, Charlie?

Charlie: Gonzaga. A parochial school near Union station.

Mayor: Why?

Charlie: There’s never been a shooting there. They don’t even have metal detectors. Almost everyone goes to college.

Mayor: Couldn’t afford it?

Charlie: Couldn’t come close to affording it.

Jed: You know what this meetings about?

Charlie:  Yes, sir. The mayor told me.

Jed: What do you think about trying an experimental voucher program for DC schools?

Charlie: I wish they would have had it when I was in school.

Jed: You planning on telling me that any time soon?

Charlie: Can’t say that I was, sir.

Jed: Your honor, I’m going to need your help putting out some fires within the party on this one.

Mayor: You got it. Thank you, Mr. President.


Mike McShane: Look at the nod, the nod.

Abby Hayes: Charlie.

Mike McShane: It’s great. A little bit of history might be helpful here. This did mimic what was actually going on in the district, and just like in this story, the policy, the plan that was put out was new money. It was part of the DC reform package that they called the three sector solution. It was additional support for traditional public schools, additional support for charter schools, additional support for … Excuse me, the creation of the DC opportunity scholarship program.

In many cases, as is brought up here and is true in Washington, D.C., it can not drain— by any stretch of the imagination—it doesn’t drain money from the public schools, because it’s completely separately funded. The public schools don’t lose money, and in fact, in different voucher programs around the country, depending on how they’re structure, in some periods school districts are held harmless or are held harmless for a shorter period of time, some for longer periods of time. There are actually lots of mechanisms put in place such that when students leave with school vouchers, that they don’t necessarily feel the same financial hit.

The story is a little bit different, because at the time, George W. Bush was president. It was a Republican president that was happening, but it was a Democratic Mayor, Anthony Williams. His subsequent, the subsequent mayors and numerous members of the city council approved it. The long time teachers union leader, George Parker, actually changed his mind on the issue.

Abby Hayes: Okay, that sounds familiar.

Mike McShane: Someone who was definitely against it but has later on realized on the other side of the issue is now a pro-schools choice person. Also, an incredible amount of parent organizing that went on. The great Virginia Walden Ford, who is a friend of the family here, led an incredible campaign of parent organizing in order to make all of that happen. Life imitates art in this case, or art imitates life. How did that make you feel?

I saw, as Charlie was talking, you were smiling. So …

Abby Hayes: Yeah, I think Charlie hits on what, a lot of what we have learned when we talk to parents who either want to choose their own school or have chosen their own school. A lot of times when we get wrapped up in education policy, we’re talking about test scores and attainment. Parents aren’t using words like that and neither are students. Students are talking about safety and parents are concerned about safety. They’re concerned about the environment of the school. That’s what Charlie hits on. He’s not concerned about academics, other than people graduate and go to college, which says something for the academic record of the school in question. But he’s not talking about standardized test scores, he’s talking about, I would go there and I would feel safe, and I would probably have had an easier time going to college.

That’s a really big deal, and so that just gets me every time.

Mike McShane: For sure. This is sort of the counter point to what we were talking about earlier with the Sam and Mallory debate. Which is, this is intensely personal. This is an actual student who went through the system saying, “I would prefer it to be different.” You have your abstract … Again, I think the President in the earlier parts of it, kind of thrown out those … the minute money goes to vouchers, it’ll be the end of public education. You’re like, look, there’s lots of states … The state of Wisconsin, Florida. These programs have existed for a long time, and they still have thriving public schools that are all part of it.

I think that this idea that it’s like, the one brick in the wall and suddenly everything starts crumbling. Actually, what we found, and from a lot of careful research of this is that private school choice programs actually have positive benefits for the students that are left behind in public schools. I think there’s lots of reasons to think why that’s the case. Who leaves with a voucher? A student who maybe isn’t doing so hot in the school where they’re in before, and they want to have more opportunities to go somewhere else. That means the students that are left behind in the traditional public schools are the students who want to be there, who the school is working for. Those other students have an opportunity to find a school that works for them.

Abby Hayes: Yeah, well and too as school vouchers and other forms of private school choice have become more popular and charters have entered the scene. As long as that’s happen, we’ve seen a lot of innovation at the public school level too. Here in Indy, we have a huge robust magnet school system, and there are a lot of fabulous options. Not all of them are a good fit for every kid, like there’s a Montessori option that … Montessori is not for every kid. It’s fabulous for the kids it works for, and my own daughter is in a public magnet school right now. It’s a great fit.

Mike McShane: Totally.

Abby Hayes: That’s definitely something to consider. It is more about environment, and fit, and safety. All of those things that we tend to talk about a little less, I think, than just the sheer test scores and outcomes.

Mike McShane: Absolutely. As we think about these things, remembering Charlie.

Abby Hayes: Yep.

Mike McShane: That’s what we should do. Whenever we’re talking about school choice … Look, I’m as guilty of it as anybody, falling into this really talking about it in terms of abstractions and things. Really remembering to focus on stuff, we’re talking about actual children. Living, breathing children with hopes and dreams and potential. We should be doing everything possible to put them in the best learning environment for them. Personally, and I don’t know if you share … I don’t want to speak for you, but if that’s a private school, a public school, a magnet school, a charter school. Whatever, I’m all for it.

Abby Hayes: For sure, whatever works best for the kid and the family. For sure. Yeah, and I think I just love this scene especially played back to back with that one where they were doing debate prep, and we talked about how President Bartlett is speaking from a position of privilege. I think he doesn’t really realize that he doesn’t understand what the situation is on the ground. Then he talks to Charlie, this kid that he loves and trusts, and that changes his mind immediately. He doesn’t even say anything about it. He’s just like-

Abby Hayes: I guess we’re doing this now.

Mike McShane: You see the bricks crumble, where he’s like, you’re a great advertisement for public schools. Then immediately it’s like, “Would you want to go there?” “No, I’d want to go somewhere else.” He’s like, my goose is cooked here. I’m not going to win this one. Fair enough to him, he changed his mind on that. This is the great way to end this. Maybe some people, hopefully if you’re watching this because you like The West Wing too … Mayor you don’t agree with us on school choice, but be like Jed Bartlett. Look at the evidence. Have the people who are actually on the ground, that are affected by it, listen to what they have to say and maybe, just maybe, you’ll change your mind.

Abby Hayes: Exactly. I love it.

Mike McShane: Well, Abby, this was super fun. Did you enjoy this?

Abby Hayes: Yeah, this was great.

Mike McShane: Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you all for joining us. Those of you who are watching us, and those of us who are listening to this. Thanks so much for being with us.

Abby Hayes: Thanks.