The Washington Post has an editorial today in which they take Democrats to task for working to kill the school voucher program that allows poor DC children to attend private schools, including Sidwell Friends, the same elite school that Malia and Sasha attend.
Last week, the Democrat-controlled House passed a spending bill that spells the end, after the 2009-10 school year, of the federally funded program that enables poor students to attend private schools with scholarships of up to $7,500. A statement signed by Mr. Obey as Appropriations Committee chairman that accompanied the $410 billion spending package directs D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to “promptly take steps to minimize potential disruption and ensure smooth transition” for students forced back into the public schools.
We would like Mr. Obey and his colleagues to talk about possible “disruption” with Deborah Parker, mother of two children who attend Sidwell Friends School because of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. “The mere thought of returning to public school frightens me,” Ms. Parker told us as she related the opportunities — such as a trip to China for her son — made possible by the program. Tell her, as critics claim, that vouchers don’t work, and she’ll list her children’s improved test scores, feeling of safety and improved motivation.
But the debate unfolding on Capitol Hill isn’t about facts. It’s about politics and the stranglehold the teachers unions have on the Democratic Party. Why else has so much time and effort gone into trying to kill off what, in the grand scheme of government spending, is a tiny program? Why wouldn’t Congress want to get the results of a carefully calibrated scientific study before pulling the plug on a program that has proved to be enormously popular? Could the real fear be that school vouchers might actually be shown to be effective in leveling the academic playing field?
Sidwell Friends School is not large. This year just over 1,000 students are enrolled in grades Pre-K-12, so the kids at the school are going to notice that suddenly one day the Parker children are no longer in their classes. How will the teachers explain these kids’ absences? How will President Obama explain to his daughters that they get to go to an elite private school that believes they deserve “a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world increasingly without borders,” while the Parker children are forced back into a school system known only for corruption and failure? Whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t be the truth, which is that the Democrats owe their allegiance to the National Education Association and not the children in DC.