Thursday, October 7, 2010

Obama on School Vouchers: Highly Hypocritical

What? Gary is talking about the public school system. Yes, I know. This is not exactly a common ground for my incredibly astute observations, but this is something I think you should hear.

The other morning, President Obama appeared on NBC and discussed the failing state of the American education system. The President says that more spending is not the solution to improving education. “When you look at the statistics, our per pupil spending has gone up over the last few decades even as results have gone down.” He said.

The President was asked if his two daughters would receive the same quality education in a local DC public school as at their prestigious private school. President Obama answered: “I’ll be blunt with you; the answer is 'no' right now. The DC public school systems are struggling.

He admitted that due to his high status he had the rare opportunity to enroll Sasha and Malia in a better performing DC public school. But he said: “the broader problem is for a mom and a dad who are working hard but don’t have a lot of connections, don’t have a lot of choice in terms of where they live. They should be getting the same quality education as anyone else. We don’t have that yet.”

President Obama is right. Many poor families with no political connections have no choice but to enroll their children in a failing DC public school. The DC public school system is the most expensive yet produces the worst results in the nation. DC spends an average of $28,170 per pupil annually yet only 12 percent of eight-graders are proficient in reading, only 8 percent in math.

One would think that Mr. Obama would support reforms that allow other families to get out of the failing DC public school system. After all, President Obama, who grew up poor, benefited tremendously from receiving a scholarship to attend the prestigious private Punahou School, which is considered one of the finest schools n the world and is very hard to get enrolled in. If he had not had that opportunity to obtain an excellent education, he very likely would have never grown up to become the President of the United States. It is surprising that President Obama failed to extend the successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, also known as the DC Voucher Program, last year. All DC families should have the same opportunity to send their child to a better performing school.

The DC public schools simply did not meet the needs of the Obama family. By the same token, many DC parents are severely dissatisfied with their children’s educational quality. After all, it is hard for a student to focus on learning while their school is plagued with gang violence. The DC Scholarship Program gave DC families hope to send their child to a better school. In fact, the program was so popular that were four applicants for every one available slot. Virginia Walden Ford whose son William got a scholarship to attend a private school says that: “I believe that being able to choose a school that was safe and a better environment for him saved his life.”

During the 2008 election, Obama said: "if there was any argument for vouchers it was ‘Let's see if the experiment works.' And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what's best for kids.", He has since backed away from that statement after pressure from powerful teachers' unions. However, the DC School Voucher Program was a successful experiment. While only 1,900 students could be accommodated, a whopping 7,000 students applied for a voucher. The program was cost effective since it only cost an average of $6,620 per student—one-fourth of the cost that the district pays for K-12 schooling. The program, although short-lived, was also responsible for increasing student achievement and parental satisfaction. The Department of Education found that students that came into DC Voucher Program when it first started had a 19-month advantage in reading compared to their public school counterparts.

45 percent of our Senators choose to send their own children to private schools. Many of these lawmakers hypocritically oppose school choice for others. Our children deserve better than the status quo. It’s time to do what’s best for students. The President and the Congress need to stop this blatant hypocrisy and reenact the successful DC Voucher Program so that all DC parents will have the same opportunity to send their child to a better and safer school!

Thus endeth Gary’s sortie into the public school arena……

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