Calling Out President Obama



By 12/07/2009

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In yesterday’s Washington Post, Kevin Chavous and Anthony Williams note that President Obama has not yet “spoken publicly” on plans to end the D.C. Scholarship Program.

Chavous, a former Democratic member of the D.C. Council, and Williams, a former Democratic mayor of D.C., say it’s time for the President to weigh in.  Yet, a case could be made that he has.  One must assume that Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s frequent comments about the program’s future have been cleared with the White House.

Indeed, as Williams and Chavous explain:

Despite the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program’s five-year record of success in helping children from low-income D.C. families attend the best schools they have ever known, President Obama, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) are threatening to end it. Officially, the three have coalesced around a position that would allow current participants to remain in the program but not let in any new ones, including 216 who received acceptance letters in the spring.

Plain and simple, the position of Obama, Durbin and Serrano is to let the program die. Continued funding for only current participants would deny entry to their siblings, as well as to those children of low-income parents stuck in or slated to go to the worst-performing D.C. schools. It would harm the congressionally mandated evaluation of the program by gradually cutting the number of participating children, and it would require the District to absorb the cost of accommodating children who would otherwise be in the program.

The raw political calculus does not favor the D.C. program.  For Obama to save it would anger key legislative allies that he needs on other issues.  It would displease the teachers unions, whose help will be important in the 2010 elections.

Meanwhile, the President’s children are likely to maintain their educational options.




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