So Much For A Quality Education Policy

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 9, 2010


The Obama Administration is killing off the DC school voucher program, despite the fact that it is working remarkably well, and despite the fact that DC students and parents love it. I guess this is what happens when the education lobby is more important than students and parents.

Fred Hiatt is as puzzled by this bizarre move as I am:

Generally, opponents [of the voucher program] offer two arguments. One is that it won’t solve the whole problem. Well, no. That’s why everyone should support what Chancellor Michelle Rhee is trying to do to improve all D.C. schools. But even she supports the scholarship program. She testified before the Senate last September that until her reforms have had a few more years to take root, she can’t guarantee a quality education to every District child. No wonder that every year there have been many more applicants for the vouchers than vouchers to give out.

The second objection is that if children or families with get-up-and-go actually get up and go, things will be even worse for those left behind. There are a lot of problems with this argument, but the main one is that the people who make it usually aren’t willing to condemn their own children to attend terrible high schools in order to improve things for the other kids there. Why should we demand that of families who have high aspirations but can’t afford to move?

But even if you’re inclined against vouchers, why not embrace a program that has a chance to shed real light on the long-running, fraught and inconclusive argument about their effectiveness? The D.C. program was established to provide such evidence. It enrolled a control group of children who applied for vouchers but didn’t get them, and it is following them along with the kids with vouchers. In a couple more years, if funded robustly, it would give us a real sense of what worked and what didn’t. That could be helpful to lots of children.

Of course, thanks to the Administration zeroing out the voucher program, we won’t get that information. Instead of having an Administration dedicated to collecting facts on how to construct the best educational program possible, we have a White House that puts the interests of teachers’ unions over those of families, and refuses to do the necessary legwork to familiarize itself with best practices when it comes to education.

But not to worry, since the Obama kids can still attend Sidwell Friends School. Even if other DC kids, you know, can’t.

Just another day in the life of the “reality-based community.”

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