Union Dues

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There has been such a flurry of leftist initiatives being shoved through by the Democrats in Washington that it is hard to keep track of them all. Indeed, those in power seem to count on the fact that when you have omnibus bills mandating thousands of new programs, the citizens will be unable to monitor what is being done. But a particularly vicious attack on school choice stands out.

The District of Columbia has had a notoriously dysfunctional school system for decades. A few years back, Congress allowed the District to run a modest voucher program as a test. Called the Opportunity Scholarship Program, it gave poor parents – 99% of whom were black or Hispanic – a $7,500 voucher for each child they chose to send to a private school. The program was modest in two senses: $7,500 is less than a third of what the DC public school system spends on average to educate a child; and only 1,700 vouchers were allowed. But the teachers’ unions can’t allow even such tiny competition as this, and they vowed to destroy it.

These unions are intoxicated with power. They contributed $50 million to Obama’s campaign, and vastly more to the congressional races. The result is a federal government that is most eager to do their bidding. Congress, led by Dick Durbin (D-IL), voted just last month essentially to kill the DC pilot program.

Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan was complicit In thIS nasty pIece of work. Duncan, who (like his boss) is the master of the head fake – first feign openness to something, then do precisely the opposite – actually suppressed the latest report on the voucher test program, even as Congress was debating the program.

The report was mandated by Congress and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. It showed statistically significant Improvement In the academic performance of the voucher kids. They are reading at nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers, meaning the kids who applied for the vouchers but weren’t awarded them, and so remained in public schools. (The voucher kids scored no better than their peers, but no worse, in math.) Add to this the fact that the voucher kids were significantly less likely than their peers who remained at public schools to have been robbed at school.

This is no doubt why there have been four applicants for everyone of the available slots in this meager program. Voucher schools not only educate better; they are safer. The teachers’ unions know this, and hate those schools with a pas- sion that one wishes their members would bring to their own schools.

So not only are the kids in the rotten DC public school system going to have to stay there, but the pathetically small number who have temporarily escaped will be rounded up and sent back.

In all these tawdry dealings, Obama has been as mendacious as he has been hypocritical. He is hypocritical for deny- Ing 1,700 poor kIds a chance to go to a decent private school, even while his own children go to the very best. (But then, his children have millionaires for parents.) And he is mendacious for saying during his campaign (to the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel, which quizzed him on vouchers) that if he were shown evidence that vouchers work,’ he would accept them. He got the evidence, but he also got millions from the teachers’ un.ions, so the kids got the shaft. It is hopeless to expect educational change from his administration.

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