Commentary

U.S Education Secretary Arne Duncan Won’t Support School Choice for Poor D.C. Children; Instead Helped Well-Connected Get Choice in Chicago

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been unwilling to support the DC Opportunity Scholarship program that allows disadvantaged students to attend higher-quality DC private schools and even rescinded the scholarships of 216 children that had already been accepted into the program this year. This becomes even more ironic in light of the fact that Duncan maintained an exclusive list of well-connected folks that he helped exercise school choice in Chicago’s highest quality public schools. As the Chicago Tribune reports today:

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Disadvantaged students in Washington D.C. certainly deserve the same prospects for better schools as the rich and powerful in Chicago and the privilege enjoyed by both Arne Duncan and President Obama to attend a high-quality school.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.