Doing right by DC’s students

January 30, 2011

Last summer I castigated President Obama, his Secretary of Education, and the Democrats for killing a school voucher program in the District of Columbia that provided good educations to children who would otherwise be stuck in rotten schools. The benefits to these children weren’t just airy conservative theory: test scores were bearing them out in practice.

But, the president owed the teacher’s unions big-time for the work (and money) they poured into his election, and, of course, anything not smelling of statism goes against his nature anyway. Hence the voucher program was allowed to expire. (While his own children were placed in the toniest private school in Washington.)

But, not all public servants are willing to sacrifice a child’s education on the altars of ideology and union greed. Thus it is that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Lieberman (I-CT) are going to introduce legislation reviving the voucher program:

The speaker, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on Wednesday plans to introduce legislation to revive a controversial program that provides private-school vouchers for kids of low-income parents in Washington, D.C. Boehner has long been a supporter of that program, which started to wind down in 2009, but is devoting some serious political capital to the cause this week.

(…)

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, as it is known, was launched in 2004 as the first federally funded program providing K-12 education grants. Though supporters say it gives poor students an alternative to the city’s underperforming public school system, teachers unions and other opponents say it draws sorely needed money away from the public system.

Lawmakers opposed to the program succeeded in eliminating it after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — who could not be reached for comment Tuesday — attached an amendment to a 2009 spending bill. President Obama stepped in and agreed to allow students currently enrolled to graduate. But the program is no longer accepting new applicants.

Click through to see video of Boehner and Lieberman’s announcement.

I think it’s a safe bet to say this will pass. The question is whether the President will sign it and do the right thing by the District’s children, or veto it to please his union backers. If he does veto it, not only will it be another sign that his “move to the center” is a bad joke, but it will let me ask again the question I offered last time: Why does President Obama hate poor kids?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Choice works: the rebirth of New Orleans schools

July 8, 2010

From Reason.TV, here’s a short documentary about how educators in New Orleans used the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina to rebuild New Orleans’ school system, once one of the worst in the nation, along free-market lines founded in parental choice:

The results have been very encouraging. As Nick Gillespie explains at Big Government:

Today, New Orleans has the most market-based school system in the US. 60% of New Orleans students currently attend charter schools, test scores are up, and talented and passionate educators from around the country are flocking to New Orleans to be a part of the education revolution. It’s too early to tell if the New Orleans experiment in school choice will succeed over the long term, but for the first time in decades people are optimistic about the future of New Orleans schools.

And yet this is the very kind of program President Obama wants to deny the poor children of Washington, DC.

LINKS: More from Hot Air.


Endangered species: the progressive Muslim

July 6, 2010

This guy had better be careful; suggesting reform or changes to Islam, or that any portion of the Qur’an is not applicable for all time, can earn one a death fatwa. At Technorati, A. Mohit muses on Islam in the wake of a school teacher’s beheading:

Proponents of Islam maintain that most of these practices are attributed to sharia laws, and many progressive Muslims claim that sharia laws are not always derived from the principles laid down in the Muslim holy book Quran; rather in many instances these laws are contrary to Quranic instructions. The problem is that there is no universal acceptance of these opinions among the Islamic scholars.

Many non-Muslims allege that Islam is a dangerous religion, and I admit that at the core of my heart, I feel I do not have ammunitions to refute this allegation about my faith. I have been taught that Quran is a divine book that God has preserved in the way it came to mankind. Nevertheless, I find many statements in Quran are not defensible in the justice system of the civilized world, just as Muslims find such statements in other holy books, which to them are not holy, since they consider those books to be adulterated.

The divinity of Quran has failed to save my people. I pray that they learn to respect other religions, realize how people of other faiths have reexamined the core concepts of their denominations, and reformed their practices to accommodate the latest discoveries of science to make them suitable for society with its ever expanding knowledge base.

Good luck with that. As I wrote elsewhere, the task of reform seems impossible without tearing out the foundations of Islam, itself. I hope Mr. Mohit and other reformers prove me wrong.

(via Jihad Watch)


Why does President Obama hate poor kids?

June 25, 2010

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.


When even Sweden runs away from socialism

May 16, 2010

Here’s an interesting video from Reason.TV, in which Swedish economist Andreas Bergh talks about how Sweden owes its success not to social democracy, but lowered tax rates and deregulation. Of special interest is what he has to say about Sweden’s health care and educational systems. Washington, take note:


Sowell: slavery, distorted history, and filtered facts

April 27, 2010

At Real Clear Politics, a curious incident leads Thomas Sowell to think about how the history of slavery is taught, and how its one-sided presentation leads to the wrong lessons:

Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans– more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to “Roots,” and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of “our society” or the sins of a particular race.

If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilization, it is that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery, including in some cases armed resistance.

Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery– on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.

Sowell argues that those teaching only one aspect of the story of slavery, how America enslaved Africans, for example, are doing so because they have an agenda: the derogation and slighting of the civilization in which they live. They also miss the real story, that of the dangers inherent in letting one group of people have unconstrained power over another.

And thus they do their students no favors.


Arne Duncan’s list and the Chicago Way

March 25, 2010

Following up on this item, have a look at John Kass’ column in the Chicago Tribune on Arne Duncan’s secret list and how it fits in the Chicago Way.

The mayor knows how it works. He etched it into Chicago’s civic infrastructure years ago, when he took over the public schools.

Machiavellian? Yes. Because it is a relationship that feeds upon the love of hard-working, tax-paying parents for their children. And it works just fine for the mayor too.

When first elected in 1989, Daley eagerly reached out to those in the city’s predominantly white professional class. They were edgy and many were considering leaving Chicago.

In response, the mayor built top magnet and college prep high schools, pushing through work-rule changes to attract the best teachers. He produced the schools that nervous white-collar voters demanded.

Members of the professional class wanted city life. But they wanted their children educated. They became clients of Daley’s first tier.

The second tier pretty much remained the same, a tier mostly for minorities and the poor.

Daley spent millions upon millions of dollars on new school buildings in low-income neighborhoods. This massive wave of construction endeared him to the predominantly white trade unions: the carpenters, the bricklayers, the electricians who formed his power base on the Far Southwest Side and the southwest suburbs.

But education in the second tier remains abysmal. High school dropout rates are still around 50 percent, yet much higher when magnet schools are exempted. But even as tens of thousands of kids drop out to become calcified in the permanent underclass, the second tier still supports the mayor.

It’s not just about education. It is about jobs and patronage. Top teachers either fled or were lured to the top schools. But middle-rung teachers and below are the backbone of the teachers union.

The neighborhoods were rewarded with local school councils to elect, and budgets to manage and principals to appoint. By allowing the locals to run their mini-fiefdoms, Daley bound neighborhood activists to the system.

They were no longer beefers outside City Hall. They’d bought in.

And the vast public school bureaucracy, with tens of thousands of administrators, remained a patronage base for City Hall and Democratic pols in Springfield, particularly the black legislative caucus.

Then-State Senator Barack Obama was a member of that caucus. Arne Duncan was Daley’s man running the school system, and he’s now President Obama’s education secretary. And what was one of the first acts of the new administration? Shutting down the school-voucher program for poor DC kids that enabled them to go to good private schools and escape the lousy schools staffed by unionized teachers. The patrons looking out for their clients.

And the Chicago Way brought to the national stage.

Read the whole thing. It’s educational.

(hat tip: Vermontaigne)