So, what does Obama think of Chicago’s school voucher proposal?

Let’s get something straight. School vouchers are pretty much exclusively supported by conservatives and those who actually want kids to succeed. Those against student vouchers are usually unions and government bureaucrats who complain about dollars being “removed” from public education … where kids are indoctrinated.

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Obama School Voucher – Video Update

Steve has already posted twice on this issue. So this is really a companion piece to “Obama’s Flip Flopping Statements”.

But lest you think only conservatives are outraged by the Obama administrations flip flopping stance on a very successful program in the DC schools … no less than liberal pundit Juan Williams has urged the reinstatement of the voucher money. Even better … Juan knows the only thing blocking these kids from a good education and it’s definitely not money as Steve points out here.


Video Note: Unfortunately there is some dropped audio in this video, I apologize.

Obama’s flip-flopping statements on school vouchers

One Wednesday, I wrote about the Obama administration’s plan to sunset the the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program – a federal initiative – that provided scholarships to kids.

After the kerfluffle of the Wall Street Journal piece, Education Secretary Arne Duncan proposed a solution. Let the kids who are already in the private system stay there, but cut off access for others. Nice.

What has not been noted, was President Obama’s flip-flopping statements on school voucher programs. In Feb. 2008, just one year ago, he was open to supporting them if they worked. From the New York Sun

Senator Obama said this week that he is open to supporting private school vouchers if research shows they work.

“I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn,” Mr. Obama, who has previously said he opposes vouchers, said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We’re losing several generations of kids, and something has to be done.”

Education analysts said Mr. Obama’s statement is the closest they have ever seen a Democratic presidential candidate come to embracing the idea of vouchers. Vouchers are taxpayer-funded scholarships that allow families to opt out of public school and use their government-allotted education dollars to attend a private school instead. They are despised by teachers unions, powerful players in Democratic politics.

By June, the NEA had reminded Obama about his previous statements – and the official 2007 NEA questionnaire – that led the organization to believe he was against voucher programs. So much for ensuring our kids can learn.

Here is a report from the Utah Education Association noting issues most important to NEA members. The number one reason, at least as listed in the PDF…

Sen. Obama opposes using public tax dollars to provide financial support to private schools.

The NEA site, which no longer has the full questionnaire online, sums up the Obama and McCain stance on vouchers on their site.


So he had to “revise” his statements from February. From

The senator told ABC News last week: “We don’t have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.”

A huge drain? Is he kidding me? The DC public school system spends an estimated $25,000 per kid and vouchers, in the case of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, are $7,500 per kid.

Obama is flat out owned by the National Education Association. They demand and he delivers, even if voucher programs work – and they do.

How can the Obama administration think these programs do not work?

Who cares when millions in donations come from NEA members. Gotta have the cash flow I guess.

Here is a snip from the AP story on the Education secretaries “clarification.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that poor children getting vouchers to attend private schools in the District of Columbia should be allowed to stay there, putting the Obama administration at odds with Democrats trying to end the program.

Duncan opposes vouchers, he said in an interview with The Associated Press. But he said Washington is a special case, and kids already in private schools on the public dime should be allowed to continue.

“I don’t think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they’re happy and safe and satisfied and learning,” Duncan told said. “I think those kids need to stay in their school.”

Democrats in Congress have written a spending bill that would effectively end the program after next year. The bill says Congress and the city council would have to OK more money, which is unlikely.

The vouchers allowed some families to get their kids out of the D.C. public system and into private schools like Sidwell Friends.

Hat tip to Malkin for the heads up on Duncan’s statement.

Obama administration attacks school choice

By offering school choice, many cities – including Washington D.C. – have been able to provide some kids with the opportunity to attend better performing schools. Following marching orders from the National Education Association, the Obama administration intends to let a popular D.C. program end.

As mentioned here and here, the administration is taking some heat after the Wall Street Journal introduced us to the Parker family.

Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James [Parker] attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.

Look, the Obama family decision to send their kids to Sidwell Friends School was probably a good move. Not only does the Obama family have the income to afford tuition, there are security concerns I’m sure Sidwell is familiar with.

But why take the opportunity from other families?

More about the programs offered
The Washington Scholarship Program (WSP) provides varying scholarship opportunities funded with private and public money. One opportunity is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (D.C. OSP).

The D.C. OSP provides genuine school choice for low-income families in the form of scholarships for children to attend K-12 non-public schools within the District’s boundaries. The maximum annual scholarship amount of $7,500 per child is available for families at or below 185% of the federal poverty level ($39,220 for a family of four). Families must reapply and prove their eligibility each year.

Established in 2003 as a fully funded government pilot, the pre-2008 budget allocation seems to have been less than $13 million ($7,500 x 1,715 kids). The Bush administration suggested increasing this amount by $5 million in April of 2008.

So, how well was the program doing? The Heartland Institute’s John Schilling, chief of staff and director of national projects for the DC-based Alliance for School Choice, chimes in.

“This is a program that is working phenomenally well for nearly 2,000 very low-income children and enjoys overwhelming parental satisfaction,” Schilling noted, “yet [it] receives significantly less funding than DCPS or charter schools.”

Even the Heritage Foundation reviewed reports and suggested expansion in a Web memo last month.

I know, you’ve often heard me – and other libertarians/conservatives – flat out state that the government should not be involved with education at all. In this example – as with other school choice voucher programs across the nation – this is a perfect example of bipartisanship destroyed by liberal politicians.

Damn do I cringe at that word. Anyway…

As noted in a previous post, Obama’s current appropriations bill increases the District’s school budget by $20 million. The argument from liberals will be they are closing one program and replacing it with more funding for the public school system.

I’m certain the parents of Sarah and James Parker are confident that if their kids must return to the public school system, they will get the same service and quality they received from Sidwell.

The federal government is, after all, throwing more funding at the public system than was provided to the school choice program!

Good luck with that, since we’ve proven more dollars do not improve student performance. When will the politicians, the NEA and parents come to the same realization? By taking this funding and giving it to the public system, students and families who who have tasted educational success will learn an important lesson. If the government gives it to you, they can certainly take it away.