Education: A Golden Age

“The education sector’s structure and policies will change more in the next 3 years than they changed in the last 2,500 years”

Washington DC vouchers

Andrew Campanella and Washington Post article on vouchers:

“I want to share an excellent editorial from today’s Washington Post (see below). The Post’s full support of school vouchers in D.C., especially in the middle of the presidential campaign, is important.

The Post accurately calls for leaders to “look past these tired political arguments to the real needs of real children.””

Vouching for Vouchers
Would a President Obama listen to the D.C. parents and students benefiting from school choice?

Saturday, October 18, 2008; A14

IT WOULD be nice if facts, not ideology, framed the discussion over the District’s school voucher program. In an exchange during this week’s presidential debate, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama airily dismissed the program, while Republican Sen. John McCain offered a somewhat jumbled defense of it. Lost was this: 1,903 poor children have educational opportunities because of a unique program that detracts not a whit from either public or charter schools.

The stance of the two candidates is not surprising, given the history of their respective parties. Democrats loathe any suggestion of sending public money to private schools, while Republicans see the free market as a solution to the woes of urban education. It’s important, though, that the next president — and if the polls are to be believed, that will be Mr. Obama — look past these tired political arguments to the real needs of real children served by the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The next president and incoming Congress will decide whether to continue a program that gives low-income families up to $7,500 per child for their children to attend private schools of each family’s choosing.

Mr. Obama’s contention that data show that vouchers don’t work should be reexamined. The most in-depth study into the impact of vouchers involves the D.C. program, and it is far from complete. Federal researchers in early studies have found no statistically significant difference in test scores between students who were offered scholarships and those who were not, but they are encouraged by signs showing improved reading by children with the scholarships. It would be wrong to end the program before all the results are known. Then, too, it is undisputed that parents participating in the program believe their children are in better, safer schools. And, as Mr. McCain pointed out, shouldn’t parents have the same choice “that Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama had and Cindy and I had” to send their children to a school of their choosing? Mr. McCain’s numbers were off, but in a city with deplorable public schools, there’s demand and support for this program.

Mr. Obama is right that vouchers alone won’t solve the ills of education, but if he is elected, he should listen to poor people who are benefiting from this program and to local leaders who support it. Those leaders include, in his words, Washington’s “wonderful new superintendent” and “young mayor” who, in trying to improve the city’s troubled schools, would never think to limit a parent’s options. When all is said and done, they favor a program that brings money to public and charter schools while giving some poor parents what many others take for granted: a choice.

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2008/10/19 - Posted by | Policy

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