Out of Control Policy Blog

Address as Education Destiny

President Barack Obama sends his own kids to a private school as I pointed out in a Forbes column last week. But he had no compunctions about killing a D.C. voucher program that gave a similar option to 1,700 poor and minority kids who'd otherwise be stuck in the city's violent and failing schools.

Obama's hypocrisy might be outrageous - but it is by no means unique. The chief villain in the D.C. voucher saga, Illinois' Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, himself went to a private school and sends his kids to one. Yet he added language in a spending bill to eliminate spending for the voucher program. Worse, he did so when the government's own official evaluations were proving that the program was producing measurable and significant academic gains for kids with vouchers.

And now Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke has just published a study in which he found that 44% of Senators and 36% of Representatives in the 111th Congress have sent their children to private schools. By contrast, in the general public, only 11% of kids attend private school.

 Commendably, some backers of Barack Obama have not shied from calling this political hypocrisy what it is: a sop to the powerful teachers' unions. Chief among them are the Washington Post editorial page and Fox News commentator Juan Williams. WaPo has been running editorials and columns practically every day pleading that the administration not throw these kids under the bus - so to speak.

 And Williams recently wrote: "If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for America's black and Hispanic students," he writes. "But over the last week I find myself in a fury. The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation - improving big city public school education - get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship."

(Full column here.)

But, unfortunately, not all Obama backers have been willing to stand up for poor kids over their man. Among them is liberal blogger Matt Yglesias. Remarkably, he sees no hypocrisy in Obama sending his own daughters to Sidwell Friends, an elite private school, while killing a program that, as it turns out, is helping fund a Sidwell education for two poor D.C. kids.

So deep is his denial that in a March 11 post he couldn't even bring himself to admit that there are in fact two such kids. "My understanding is that there's one such student at Sidwell currently who is a recipient of a voucher," he insisted. Somehow he missed a March 3 column in the Wall Street Journal by William McGurn that even named the two kids: Sarah and James Parker.

Like Malia and Sasha, they are siblings. Unlike Malia and Sasha, they don't live in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And without the voucher program, their destiny, like those of 1,700 or so others, will be sealed by their current address.

That's presumably OK with liberal champions of equal opportunity like Yglesias. With friends like him, do these kids really need Republicans?

Shikha Dalmia is Senior Analyst


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