Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama hypocrisy on education

Juan Williams is furious. Furious that President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have let the politics of catering to the teachers' unions to destroy the D.C. vouchers program. Williams points out a fact that is often ignored in this debate. The vouchers program doesn't take any money away from the regular D.C. education system.
This voucher programs is unique in that it takes no money away from the beleaguered District of Columbia Public Schools. Nationwide, the strongest argument from opponents of vouchers is that it drains hard-to-find dollars from public schools that educate the majority of children.

But Congress approved the D.C. plan as an experiment and funded it separately from the D.C. school budget. It is the most generous voucher program in the nation, offering $7,500 per child to help with tuition to a parochial or private school.

With that line of attack off the table, critics of vouchers pointed out that even $7,500 is not enough to pay for the full tuition to private schools where the price of a year’s education can easily go beyond $20,000. But nearly 8,000 students applied for the vouchers. And a quarter of them, 1,714 children, won the lottery and took the money as a ticket out of the D.C. public schools.

The students, almost all of them black and Hispanic, patched together the voucher money with scholarships, other grants and parents willing to make sacrifices to pay their tuition.
And then there is the Democrats ugly hypocrisy about not paying attention to the results of the program.
What happened, according to a Department of Education study, is that after three years the voucher students scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. schools. In addition, students who came into the D.C. voucher program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading after three years in private schools.
Anyone involved in education knows that progress like this increases even more as kids go through school. Everything flows from the ability to read. That is the gateway to all other learning. And the voucher program is getting it done while the public schools can't. But Obama and Duncan are killing off that progress.
And all along the administration indicated that pending evidence that this voucher program or any other produces better test scores for students they were willing to fight for it. The president has said that when it comes to better schools he is open to supporting “what works for kids.” That looked like a level playing field on which to evaluate the program and even possibly expanding the program.

But last week Secretary Duncan announced that he will not allow any new students to enter the D.C. voucher program. In fact, he had to take back the government’s offer of scholarships to 200 students who had won a lottery to get into the program starting next year. His rationale is that if the program does not win new funding from Congress then those students might have to go back to public school in a year.

He does not want to give the students a chance for a year in a better school? That does not make sense if the students and their families want that life-line of hope. It does not make sense if there is a real chance that the program might win new funding as parents, educators and politicians rally to undo the “bigotry of low expectations” and open doors of opportunity — wherever they exist — for more low-income students.
The real reason for killing a program that is helping these kids is that they don't want to have any more embarrassing studies come out to show the success of the program. They don't want any more appealing kids to go down to Capitol HIll and give press conferences pleading for their program.

Think of all the hundreds of millions of dollars we've thrown at education programs. Some have worked and some haven't. But the administration that has pledged that they're all about funding what works regardless of ideology has demonstrated that they're really only about doing what their NEA masters want; they're not concerned about helping these poor minority kids. For shame.