Commentary

Obama’s Hypocrisy on DC Vouchers

President Obama and Congress Fail DC’s Kids

In a piece for Forbes.com, Reason Foundation’s Shikha Dalmia writes: “Perhaps hard-bitten cynics aren’t surprised by the quiet ruthlessness with which this administration has deep-sixed a popular D.C. school voucher program. But for everyone else — or, rather, everyone else not in bed with teachers’ unions — its conduct has to come as a total shock. D.C. public schools are violent, chaotic places that have among the highest dropout –and the lowest graduation — rates in the country. In 2007, D.C.’s fourth- and eighth-grade students scored lower than kids from all of the 50 states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s most reliable standardized test. Less than half of its kids are ‘proficient’ — meaning performing at grade-level — in reading and math. Against this grim reality, one would have thought that an administration that ran on the theme of hope would do anything to nurture a program offering a way out of D.C.’s hope-killing factories. Instead, the Obama administration has done everything within its power to strangle it. Obama eagerly signed the Omnibus Spending Bill that gratuitously included a provision phasing out the program next year unless Congress expressly reauthorizes it. Of course making water flow uphill will be easier than getting reauthorization from a Democratic-controlled Congress in bed with the teachers’ unions. As if that wasn’t a big enough obstacle, no sooner had the ink dried on the law than Education Secretary Arne Duncan rescinded the scholarship offer to kids admitted next year, making the program’s shuttering a fait accompli. And now it turns out that while the program’s fate was being sealed in Congress, the administration deliberately sat on a study by its own Department of Education completed weeks earlier. Why? Because the study found not that the program was failing — but that it was succeeding.”

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.