Despite being “a skeptic of vouchers,” candidate Barack Obama promised this would not prevent him from “making sure that our kids can learn.” As he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “You do what works for the kids.”
Last January 21, his first full day in office, President Obama declared, “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
Just 10 weeks later, Obama has broken both these promises. And poor-but-promising minority kids suffer the consequences.
These 1,714 children — 90 percent black and 9 percent Hispanic — enjoy the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. They each receive up to $7,500 for private or parochial schools outside Washington, D.C.’s dismal government-education system. Since its 2004 launch, 7,852 students have applied for these grants, or more than four children per voucher.
This program’s popularity notwithstanding, Obama stayed silent as Congress scheduled this initiative’s demise after the 2009 — 2010 academic year. Both a Democratic Congress and DC authorities must reauthorize the program — not likely.
Now it emerges that Obama’s Department of Education (DOE) possessed peer-reviewed, Congressionally mandated, research proving this program’s success. Though it demonstrates “what works for the kids,” DOE hid this study until Congress squelched these children’s dreams.
This analysis compared voucher users’ test scores to those of students who requested vouchers but lost the award lottery. Among DOE’s results:
*While they were no better at math, voucher recipients read 3.7 months ahead of non-voucher students.
*Student subgroups — including high achievers, those from functional schools, and applicants between Kindergarten and grade 8 — showed “1/3 to 2 years of additional learning growth.”
*While 63 percent of non-voucher parents gave their kids’ schools As or Bs, 74 percent of voucher parents so rated their children’s campuses.
This good news remained concealed, from the study’s conclusion last fall, through March’s Congressional debate, until April 3, when DOE finally released this report. That was a Friday afternoon, precisely when news whisperers issue stories they want journalists to miss in the mad dash for the weekend and citizens to overlook as Saturday’s papers vanish beneath ski equipment, movie tickets, and pitchers of beer.
Worse yet, DOE researchers reportedly were forbidden to publicize or discuss their findings. “You’d think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program,” the April 5 Wall Street Journal editorialized.
For Team Obama, this is transparency we can believe in.
One expects better from Obama who won a scholarship at age 10 to attend Hawaii’s prestigious, private Punahou school. “There was something about this school that embraced me, gave me support and encouragement, and allowed me to grow and prosper,” Obama has said.
DC voucher recipients want such life chances. If you want to bawl like a baby, visit VoicesOfSchoolChoice.org and watch the Internet’s most inspirational and simultaneously heartbreaking video.
“In my old public school, people screamed at the teacher, walked out of school during class, hurt me, and made fun of all my friends,” says Paul, age 11, imploring Obama to keep hope alive. “I love going to school, where I can learn and be safe,” says Breanna, 9. “I want to go to Morehouse College, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” says De’Andre, 9. “I am going to grow up and be a good man.”
With young black kids themselves begging for vouchers, why would reputedly pro-poor, pro-black Democrats kill this popular and effective school-choice program?
Follow the money: Teachers’ unions’ paid $55,794,440 in political donations between 1990 and 2008, 96 percent of it to Democrats. Senator John Ensign’s (R – Nevada) March 10 amendment to rescue DC’s vouchers failed 39-58. Among 57 Democrats voting, 54 (or 95 percent) opposed DC vouchers.
As the late Albert Shanker, former American Federation of Teachers president, once said: “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
When poor, black school kids start making political donations, Democratic politicians will start fighting for them.