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)


Cutting through Obama’s education nonsense

January 26, 2011

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night. I rarely do, as the event has become little more than a partisan “Speech from the Throne” in which presidents lay out their agenda and play for applause lines. I’d much rather they save the joint sessions for occasions of genuine national importance and go back to the tradition of sending a written report to Congress and be done with it.

Anyway, President Obama apparently gave a lot of time (In a 62-minute speech. Talk about a windbag!) to education, stating the usual platitudes and recommending the customary statist patent remedies of —guess what?— more spending. Oh, what a surprise.

Leave it to Michelle Malkin to marshal the facts to blow away the fog created by Obama hucksterism on behalf of a failing public school system and the unions that feed on it. First, she recounts all the federal money that’s been flushed down that drain so far:

Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. One in 10 high schools is a dropout factory. And our students’ performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether.

Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget already represents “one of the largest increases” in federal education spending history, and hikes total discretionary spending to nearly $51 billion. Toss in another $35 billion for mandatory Pell grants. And add another $4 billion for the illusory “Race to the Top” charade to improve academic standards.

Then there’s the $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund signed into law last August — a naked payoff to the public teachers union, which also includes $50 million for the Striving Readers comprehensive literacy development and education program; $82 million for Student Aid Administration; and $10.7 million for the Ready to Teach program.

Oh, and don’t forget the $100 billion in federal stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

As he extols the virtues of “innovation” and “accountability,” the last thing Obama wants you to think about is the actual results of these profligate federal ed binges…

You’ll have to click through for the accountability portion of this Sherman’s march through educational waste, but don’t miss it. It will leave you angry at pouring so much money into the federal Department of Education for so little in return and wondering why on Earth we should spend more.

Count me among those who think the DoEd should be severely pared back or abolished and that control over education should be returned as much as possible to the state and local levels, where educators will be accountable directly to voters. And, while we’re at it, lets ramp up a voucher system and encourage charter schools to improve competition, breaking the government and union monopoly over K-12 education. I’m happy to say that, for once, California is leading the way in a good direction, toward empowering parents. And in New Orleans, a report from Reason.TV shows how a free-market voucher system is improving what was once one of the nation’s worst school systems.

If President Obama had truly been interested in improving education (his record suggests he’s not), then these suggestions would have been in the mix. But, no matter how closely you go through his 7,000 words, you won’t find them.

I guess instead of “for the children,” it’s “for the government and the unions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Grading Obama’s education policies

October 11, 2010

Libertarian Reason.TV gives the President an “F,” and I have to agree. Narrated by Nick Gillespie, the video flunks Obama in three areas:

  1. More money for no improvement
  2. Policies that limit choice, when school choice has been proven effective
  3. Unions before education

Watch the video for an explanation:

With regard to the second reason, I’ve written before about the rebirth of the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina and how a voucher system enabling school choice has lead to greatly improved test scores there.

But don’t bother a progressive reactionary, such as the President, with empirical evidence.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: The New Orleans school voucher program

August 19, 2010

Following up on this report, Reason.TV takes another look at the sweeping reforms of the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina, changes that saw the enrollment at Charter and other private schools climb to 70% of the city’s students. In this case, the documentary focuses on one private academy and the satisfaction of teachers, parents, and students with their new arrangements:

Granted, this is only one case and it’s meant to showcase the benefits of a voucher system, but, given the empirical success as measured in test scores and the parents’ reports of how much their children look forward to going to school, isn’t something like this worth trying in other poorly performing districts, such as LA Unified?

Okay, so there’d be a few roadblocks

RELATED: Billions for teacher unions, nothing for students.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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.


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.