Poor Choice

Urban schools in America are a disaster. So why does President Obama want to go along with Democrats in Congress and kill the voucher program in Washington DC schools?
Supporters of a celebrated school voucher program in Washington rallied near the mayor's office Wednesday to save the scholarships from being slashed by Congress -- nearly 40 percent of whose members send their own children to private schools.
Obama has offered a compromise. His bright idea is to block new students from going into the program, but leave existing students in it.
An estimated 1,000 parents, children and community leaders attended the afternoon protest in Washington's Freedom Plaza, where they called on D.C. politicians to help preserve a federal school choice program that currently assists more than 1,700 students with scholarships worth up to $7,500.
Why does the President want to kill school choice slowly? Obama's kids don't attend a public school in DC, the worst system in the country - his kids go to the comfortable, and private, Sidwell Friends School.
Two Washington recipients of vouchers, Sarah and James Parker, attend Sidwell Friends School together with the children of President Obama.
How would it look if the President endorsed a policy that evicted two poor black kids from the private school that his girls attend?
Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, says: "I'd like to see a reporter stand up at one of those nationally televised press conferences and ask President Obama what he thinks about what his own party is doing to keep two innocent kids from attending the same school where he sends his?"
That's not something the President would want. Nevertheless, he is willing to let something die that is supported by real people who don't care about politics - they care about children.
Several years ago many of us in this good city worked very hard to get a program going with the federal government so that children could go to the schools of their choice. This program has worked," said Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. councilman, but "right now some folks in Congress want to end this program."
Are there investments in education that Republicans support but to which Democrats say no, let's not fund it?
Senator John Ensign (R-NV) notes that Congress has been funding $l4 million a year in vouchers to offer students a way out of a failing education system. Participants, he declares, are "thriving" and critics are simply buckling in to the pressure of teachers unions. "This is just a little experiment, a little competition, that people want to come and destroy."
Why is the "education party" looking to hurt poor students all of a sudden? There's nothing sudden about it. Democrats have always put their union partners in front of poor minority kids - and every other student in public schools.
The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn notes that this issue "points to perhaps the most odious double standards in American life today: the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people's children -- mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos -- trapped in schools where they'd never let their own kids set foot."
This morning on WRKO's morning show in Boston, Tom & I hosted State Representative Eugene O'Flaherty, a unique Democrat in Massachusetts. Gene bucks the teachers unions and argues for education competition - he's a supporter of vouchers and Charter Schools, which he believes his working class communities desperately need. (Listen to the interview here.)
O’Flaherty called urban educational opportunity “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”
In order to make certain that not too many poor kids get a good education - this would embarrass the teachers unions - the number of charter schools a district can have is limited in Massachusetts.
Three different caps block additional charter schools.  The cap advocates called most troubling governs the percentage of a district’s school spending that can flow to charters.
Just as in Washington, Democrats in Massachusetts put unions first, kids last.
Hundreds of charter school parents went door to legislative door Wednesday, telling lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick they want to raise limits on the number of Bay State charter schools.
Patrick is now in an uncomfortable position on charters. And Patrick, like Obama, has no interest in going near the third rail of education policy - vouchers.
Studies of the Washington voucher program by the Manhattan Institute, the U.S. Department of Education, and Georgetown University have found high levels of parent satisfaction with the program and a greater degree of integration for scholarship recipients than for public school students. They also do better academically.
The education system is such a disaster in this country that cracks are starting to develop in the lock that unions have held over education policy. Even some Democrats are starting to call for innovation to fix a system that, if it wasn't controlled by their own party, Democrats would call racist.
The Cato Institute's David Boaz notes that, "Education used to be a poor child's ticket out of the slums; now it is part of the system that traps people in the underclass... In the government sector, failures are not punished, they are rewarded. If a government agency is set up to deal with a problem and the problem gets worse, the agency is rewarded with more money and more staff... What kind of incentive is this?"
A thousand protesters in DC is a tough thing to ignore, especially when they're asking for some improvement in the worst system there is.  Democrats can't hold onto their anti-child policies for much longer.