Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The hypocrisy of the education establishment

There is a very interesting editorial today in USA Today on President Obama’s decision to phase out the voucher program in Washington D.C., a program that virtually everyone recognizes has been incredibly successful.

Few national images are more shameful than those of innocent, low-income kids milling through decrepit public schools, uncared for, unsafe and barely educated. In Washington, D.C., alone, 173 schools — 67% — fail to meet federal standards of learning.

So it was curious that when President Obama recently allowed 1,716 of Washington's neediest schoolchildren to keep, until graduation, the vouchers they use to escape their failed public schools for higher-quality private ones, he also closed the program to new applicants. All this occurred as the Education Department reported that voucher participants show superior skills in reading, safety and orderliness. The news was buried in an impenetrable study released without a news conference.

Why the ambivalence? Because teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools. Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.

I rarely find myself in agreement with the editors of major newspapers. The editors of USA Today are right on this one. The issue stopped being about education a long time ago and has degenerated into a self-serving way to keep union coffers full. The message is loud and clear from the Obama administration: keeping the unions that elected him happy is more important than the education of poor, mostly minority, kids trapped in a horrific school system. For a man who has made improving education one of the centerpieces of his agenda, this step on his part exposes that

Fortunately, taking positions like this exposes the union job protecting agenda of the teachers unions and the administration. No one paying attention will mistake that the oft stated desire to improve education is a lie, a lie that is used to cover the political payback the teachers unions demand for their financial and organizational support. The tragedy is that while their hypocritical agenda is being exposed, thousands of young children are the victims, consigned to living out the cycle of poverty in order to preserve union power.
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