Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, writes on Obama’s Education policies:
In a major address last March, President Obama declared that his administration would “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” Unfortunately, the test that seems to guide the administration’s education priorities is not whether a policy works, but whether it serves a political constituency.
Consider the administration’s treatment of two federally funded programs: The D.C. voucher program, which it is helping to kill, and Head Start, on which it has bestowed billions more dollars. If the administration actually did care about results, its positions would be just the opposite.
If you look at Obama’s education policies from the point of view of what works you will come out seriously disappointed. The way to make sense of his education policies is not to look at what works and what doesn’t work but what serves the interest of one of his strongest constituencies: the teachers unions. Sure, Head Start doesn’t work but what matters is whether it benefits the teachers union. And because Head Start – like universal preschool, smaller classrooms, and higher pay for teachers – means more teachers, directly benefiting the teachers union, Obama and Democrats in general will support it.
This is why I have long given up hope of any real education reform coming from the Democrat side.
“The Lottery, a documentary due out May 7, follows four New York City families hoping to win the lottery to enroll their children in a Harlem charter school”. Via Joanne Jacobs.
“I’m exhausted and can’t stop crying. What have I gotten myself into? I suck at this. There’s always so much to do, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever done enough. The majority of my students are failing and not just cause they don’t turn things in, but because they are straight up failing their exams and quizzes. How do you spend four days talking about natural selection to only have a hand full of students actually pass your quiz on natural selection? How much can you reteach? And are they really gonna get it the next time? What purpose do I have here really? I’m just so tired…and I barely have time to myself…I mean how much more can I give up? I just don’t know what to do? I miss my family and my friends. I hate this city. I just want to go home.” — A first-year Teach for America teacher
“Economist Maria Marta Ferreyra of Carnegie Mellon University has a new article coming out in the American Economic Review that models what would happen in a multi-district urban area if there were universal vouchers. She finds that universal vouchers would generally improve income and racial integration and improve educational outcomes.” More here.
“Nearly 75 percent of Washington, D.C. residents supported school vouchers in a new poll; 68 percent of residents oppose Congress’ effort to end the federally funded program. Under the Opportunity Scholarship Program, low-income children who win a lottery have been eligible for scholarships up to $7,500, which can be used at private schools of their parents’ choice.” — Joanne Jacobs
Reason explains what this rally was about:
On May 6, 2009, concerned parents, students, and others gathered in Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza. They came to voice support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school-voucher program authorized by Congress in 2004 (as the seat of the federal government, the District is overseen by Congress). The program gives 1,700 students up to $7,500 to attend whatever school their parents choose.
The program is wildly popular with parents and children—there are four applicants for every available slot—and a recent Department of Education study found that participants do significantly better than their public school peers.
Yet working with congressional Democrats and despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to put politics and ideology aside in education, the Obama administration effectively killed the program through a backdoor legislative move. “[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars,” says the president. “It’s not whether it’s liberal or conservative, but whether it works.”
Shortly after last week’s rally, President Obama said that he would allow students currently enrolled in the program to finish up through high school, but that no new students would be allowed to enter the program. Thus, a president who exercises school choice himself, has consigned thousands of low-income students to attend massively underperforming D.C. public schools.
For more on the voucher program, watch “President Barack Obama & the DC School Voucher Program.”
“The Detroit Free Press should come with a warning label. In today’s edition I was jolted by the shocking discovery that suburban public schools compete with each other for students. Apparently when parents are able to choose schools, the schools are aware of this and respond by seeking to get their business. All because – are you ready for this? – public schools want to maximize their budgets!” — Greg Forster
A video by Reason.
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. 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….
In a politically calculated dance step the Obama team first indicated that they wanted the Opportunity Scholarship Program to continue for students lucky enough to have won one of the vouchers. The five-year school voucher program is scheduled to expire after the school year ending in June 2010. Secretary Duncan said in early March that it didn’t make sense “to take kids out of a school where they’re happy and safe and satisfied and learning…those kids need to stay in their school.”
And all along the administration indicated that pending evidence that this voucher program or any other produces better test scores for students they were willing to fight for it. The president has said that when it comes to better schools he is open to supporting “what works for kids.” That looked like a level playing field on which to evaluate the program and even possibly expanding the program…
And now Secretary Duncan has applied a sly, political check-mate for the D.C. voucher plan.
With no living, breathing students profiting from the program to give it a face and stand and defend it the Congress has little political pressure to put new money into the program. The political pressure will be coming exclusively from the teacher’s unions who oppose the vouchers, just as they oppose No Child Left Behind and charter schools and every other effort at reforming public schools that continue to fail the nation’s most vulnerable young people, low income blacks and Hispanics.
The National Education Association and other teachers’ unions have put millions into Democrats’ congressional campaigns because they oppose Republican efforts to challenge unions on their resistance to school reform and specifically their refusal to support ideas such as performance-based pay for teachers who raise students’ test scores.
By going along with Secretary Duncan’s plan to hollow out the D.C. voucher program this president, who has spoken so passionately about the importance of education, is playing rank politics with the education of poor children. It is an outrage.
The post should be read in full here.
“A week after 200 low-income Washington, D.C. families were offered $7,500 vouchers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan canceled the scholarships. No new children will start at private schools in the fall; those already attending will lose voucher aid in another year, unless Congress reconsiders. As the Washington Post editorializes, this makes it easier for congressional opponents to end the voucher program for good, despite a new study showing reading gains for voucher students.” — Joanne Jacobs
All they are asking is for the same opportunity Obama is giving his children.
Will Obama put children ahead of the teachers unions?
Many rich liberals continue to send their kids to private schools while refusing to allow parents that can’t afford it from doing the same. The WSJ reports:
The children are Sarah and James Parker. Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.
Deborah Parker says such a move would be devastating for her kids. “I once took Sarah to Roosevelt High School to see its metal detectors and security guards,” she says. “I wanted to scare her into appreciation for what she has at Sidwell.” It’s not just safety, either. According to the latest test scores, fewer than half of Roosevelt’s students are proficient in reading or math.
That’s the reality that the Parkers and 1,700 other low-income students face if Sen. Durbin and his allies get their way. And it points to perhaps the most odious of double standards in American life today: the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people’s children — mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos — trapped in schools where they’d never let their own kids set foot.
This double standard is largely unchallenged by either the teachers’ unions or the press corps. For the teachers’ unions, it’s a fairly cold-blooded calculation. They’re willing to look the other way at lawmakers who chose private or parochial schools for their own kids — so long as these lawmakers vote in ways that keep the union grip on the public schools intact and an escape hatch like vouchers bolted.
The article is a must read. See here.
“Democrats also have to get serious about school choice. The unions oppose it because they don’t want one student or one dollar to leave the regular public schools, where their members teach. So the Democrats have been timid and weak in putting choice to productive use — even though their constituents are the ones trapped in deplorably bad urban schools, whose futures are being ruined, and who are desperate for new educational opportunities. If children were their sole concern, Democrats would be the champions of school choice. They would help parents put their kids into whatever good schools are out there, including private schools. They would vastly increase the number of charter schools. They would see competition as healthy and necessary for the regular public schools, which should never be allowed to take kids and money for granted. —Terry M. Moe, William Bennett Munro professor of political science at Stanford University, in an article in the WSJ arguing that Democrats should put children before teachers unions
“Democrats favor educational “change” — as long as it doesn’t affect anyone’s job, reallocate resources, or otherwise threaten the occupational interests of the adults running the system. Most changes of real consequence are therefore off the table. The party specializes instead in proposals that involve spending more money and hiring more teachers — such as reductions in class size, across-the-board raises and huge new programs like universal preschool. These efforts probably have some benefits for kids. But they come at an exorbitant price, both in dollars and opportunities foregone, and purposely ignore the fundamentals that need to be addressed.” —Terry M. Moe, William Bennett Munro professor of political science at Stanford University, in an article in the WSJ arguing that Democrats should put children before teachers unions
Megan McArdle explains:
One of the central insights of economics is that exit matters. Markets don’t do better, over the long run, because people in the private sector are smarter or well meaning. They do better because they can be fired. What’s more, they frequently are: firms that don’t satisfy their customers go away. Look at the businesses that people in America complain most about: cell phones, utilities, cable companies, health care. What they have in common is that the end consumers do not have meaningful right of exit–those companies have at least a temporary monopoly on their customers. Private sector firms can fail spectacularly, as many financial firms just did. But the important thing is that they fail. Schools that do to education what Bear Stearns did to mortgage bonds maybe get a stern talking to from the mayor, and in extraordinary circumstances, the principal may be fired. (Though this takes year). But the school itself keeps going no matter how bad a job it is doing.
Middle-class parents instinctively know this, because they move to places where the right of exit keeps school quality high. Scarsdale knows that if it doesn’t keep the schools successful, middle class parents will leave, taking their lavish tax dollars with them. Riverdale, too, knows that it needs to keep parents happy and test scores high. The New York City public school system, on the other hand, mostly has to get butts in seats, because that’s how they get their money. It’s not that the teachers don’t want to teach kids; it’s that they don’t have to. And as anyone who’s ever tried to write a novel in their spare time knows, anything onerous that you don’t have to do generally runs afoul of other priorities.
The full article can be found here.