By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Despite giving lip service to education reform, the Obama administration has decided to put an end to the very successful D.C. school voucher program. This despite a United States Department of Education report that found students in the nation's capital that were provided with vouchers allowing them to attend private school through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program had made statistically significant gains in reading achievement.
According to the department's evaluation of the three-year-old program, "those offered a scholarship were performing at statistically higher levels in reading—equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning," something very much in line with previous findings concerning the program's effectiveness.
Columnist Juan Williams, who can often be found providing the liberal perspective on the Fox News Channel, called the decision to end the program, "Obama's outrageous sin against our kids."
"The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation—improving big city public school education—get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship," Williams wrote Monday. "If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for America's black and Hispanic students."
The D.C. voucher program provided D.C. parents desperate to find a quality education for their children a much needed lifeline. Unfortunately, as Williams pointed out, the program has fallen victim to the education politics.
"With no living, breathing students profiting from the program to give it a face and stand and defend it the Congress has little political pressure to put new money into the program," Williams wrote Monday. "The political pressure will be coming exclusively from the teacher's unions who oppose the vouchers, just as they oppose No Child Left Behind and charter schools and every other effort at reforming public schools that continue to fail the nation's most vulnerable young people, low income blacks and Hispanics.
"The National Education Association and other teachers' unions have put millions into Democrats' congressional campaigns because they oppose Republican efforts to challenge unions on their resistance to school reform and specifically their refusal to support ideas such as performance-based pay for teachers who raise students' test scores," he continued.
Education politics are big business in America, often pitting institutionalized interests like the NEA against parents and kids. And, equally unfortunately, there are far too many people who are in a position to right the wrongs who are taking advantage of their ability to opt out of the discussion, at least as far as their own children are concerned.
A new report from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that supports education reform, found that 44 percent of current United States senators and 36 percent of current members of the U.S. House of Representatives "had at one time sent their children to private schools."
"Among the general public," the report says, "only 11 percent of American students attend private schools." What's more, the Heritage report found that one fifth of members of the 11th Congress attended private high schools themselves, which is nearly twice the rate of the public at large.
Former North Carolina Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards liked to go around talking about the "two Americas." Where education is concerned, he may have been on to something. There's one America for the elites, like members of Congress and the President and Mrs. Obama, who send their children to private schools; and there's one for everyone else, the regular people who, at least in the District of Columbia, are seeing the educational dreams they have for their children shattered on the altar of politics.
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