Get a good education, get a better life. It’s been part of the American dream almost as long as there’s been an America. From the Irish and Italian immigrants in the East to Asian and Hispanic newcomers in the West, parents have worked their butts off so their kids could go to good schools and have what they themselves didn’t.
So why is it that President Obama denies the poor children of the District of Columbia that same path to a better life? Why did he kill a voucher-scholarship program that greatly improved graduation rates? Why did he act in the face of strong evidence to the contrary?
According to an evaluation released yesterday by the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) has “significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school.” The same study finds that “parents had higher satisfaction and rated schools as safer if their child was offered or used an OSP scholarship.”
With these dramatic success indicators, it must be no surprise that DC OSP is the only federal education program that the Obama Administration is intent on killing.
Dr. Matt Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute reports:
- “…students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate. That’s 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn’t receive vouchers. Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher. Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren’t offered vouchers–and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!”
So, naturally, the Obama administration’s Department of Education killed the program. Why? Part of it is, of course, due to the progressive-statist philosophy that underlies the administration, the Democrats, and their allies in the teachers’ unions: government technocrats are best able to provide educational opportunity that reaches the most people and is “fairest” to all, rich and poor. That made some sense as a theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as efforts were being made to broaden the reach of education and improve quality through standardization. But, as the recent post-Great Society history of public education has shown, larger and larger public school systems are not providing uniformly good or even safe schools to our children. Indeed, as DC shows, they’re often miserable failures.
Another reason for Democratic and, in particular, the administration’s hostility to free-market voucher programs is the heavy influence of teacher’s unions as Democratic activists and donors: both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers give the vast majority of their donations to Democrats, as well as contributing workers to local campaign offices. In return they expect the Democrats to protect union fiefdoms, regardless of whether they’re actually providing a good education and preparation for a better future. This is the Chicago Way: groups over individuals, and whoever gives you the most money and support gets the payoff.
Facts and children be damned.
AFTERTHOUGHT: And isn’t it odd that the President’s children attend one of the toniest, most exclusive private schools in DC? One that the poor children of DC no longer have a chance to go to, now that Obama has killed the voucher program? Bet that makes parents in the District happy.