Monday, May 11, 2009

Barack Obama Doesn't Care About Black Children.

If there's one thing I admire about President Obama's style of leadership, it's that he's not afraid to admit when he screwed up. Whether it's the vetting of Cabinet heads, authorizing that stoopid NYC photo-op, or tossing Jeremiah Wright under a speeding Peter Pan, dude gets points from me for knowing when to fold em'. As a guy who's also married to a strongwilled Black woman, this might could just be a coping mechanism/survival skill, but either way, admitting when he's wrong is a plus in my book, especially given the guy he's following into office. George Bush wouldn't apologize for sneezing, let alone leading us into a pointless war that's killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, thousands of US soldiers, and burned through billions of dollars.

Anyhoo, the situation here in DC regarding a school voucher program (established by a GOP-led Congress as an experiment) put Obama in an odd pickle. He (like I) isn't sold on the whole "school choice" solution, instead favoring school reform and public charters. The Obama-lead Department of Education scrapped the pilot program shortly after he took office, which put him in a very odd position. Suddenly, the GOP had their rallying-call. A black President, essentially denying poor black kids the right to the very same pricey private school education his own kids enjoy.

Thankfully, the Obama Administration has come up with a workable middle-ground that satisfies parents and negates any point the GOP might make.
President Obama will propose setting aside enough money for all 1,716 students in the District's voucher program to continue receiving grants for private school tuition until they graduate from high school, but he would allow no new students to join the program, administration officials said yesterday.

The proposal, to be released in budget documents today, is an attempt to navigate a middle way on a contentious issue. School choice advocates, including Republicans and many low-income families, say the program gives poor children better access to quality education. Teachers unions and other education groups active in the Democratic Party regard vouchers as a drain on public education that benefits relatively few students, and they say the students don't achieve at appreciably higher levels at their new schools.

Congress voted in March to cut off funding after the 2009-10 academic year unless the entire program is reauthorized by lawmakers, a dim prospect in the Democrat-led body. The White House proposal would revise the law and secure grants for the coming school year, but Obama has to persuade Democratic lawmakers to support a gradual phaseout by continuing to include grant funding in future appropriation bills.

His proposal drew support from some backers of the voucher program, officially known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

"I think it's a step in a good direction," said former District mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), a major proponent of the voucher program, established by a Republican-led Congress in 2004.

Others called the proposal a weak attempt to placate school choice advocates.

"It's a cop-out. They're just trying to buy people off," said Joseph E. Robert Jr., a philanthropist and founder of Fight for Children, a nonprofit group that seeks educational opportunities for low-income children.

The Department of Education recently issued a three-year analysis of student achievement under the program that found limited gains in reading and no significant progress in math. But the White House concluded that moving the children back to public schools amounted to an unnecessary disruption.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan had told reporters that it didn't make sense "to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning."

More than 8,000 District students have applied for scholarships since the program's inception, and about 3,000 have received the grants of as much as $7,500 a year for private or parochial schools. Of the 1,716 current scholarship recipients, about 1,400 are in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. The largest cohort, 211 students, is in second grade, according to figures provided by the Washington Scholarship Fund, which administers the voucher program.

Before Congress cut off funding for new scholarship students, 630 had applied for fall 2009. About 200 of those were awarded scholarships that were rescinded after the congressional action, Cork said.

Some cited a recent survey that found that 38 percent of members of Congress have sent children to private schools. About 20 percent of the lawmakers attended private schools, almost twice the rate of the general public.
I gotta say, if you're trying to make a point, noting that most Congresspeople have their kids in public school is not a resounding argument. Not one bit. Everyone is entitled to an education, but not a private one. Using that logic, I suppose everyone's entitled to a Lexus too, cause most rich people have em'. Tighten up your logic, folks.

I have many problems with private school vouchers, not the least of which being that they siphon funding and high-performing students from failing schools. By design, they can only "save" a small fraction of all students, assuming you believe these students perform better in their new schools. Whether or not these students fare better academically as a result has been long debated, and inconclusive at best. Reality is, the kids who are applying for these scholarships are typically among the best performing students in their schools already. You could argue that these kids would succeed wherever they went to school, not that they are "saved".

Perhaps the most startling aspect of this whole story is seeing the GOP (and Libertarians) pretending it actually gives a sh*t about the academic advancement of Black kids.

The very same Black kids whose parents they decry as "welfare Queens", "dependent on gubb'ment for socialist handouts" and "stealing from hardworking Americans via a redistribution of wealth". The very same Black kids that this very same GOP is fighting tooth and nail to deny the right to Congressional representation.

If the GOP cared so much about Black children, they'd stop fighting funding for preschool and other various aspects of the President's (arguably not ambitious enough) plan to revamp public education by categorizing it as "out of control gubb'ment spending".

Please miss me with that bullsh*t. We don't believe you. You need more people.

Question: Could Obama have handled the voucher program a bit better? What do you think of school vouchers? Do you think the GOP is being genuine in their concern for the educational advancement of Negro Chill'rens?

Obama Offers D.C. Voucher Compromise [WashPost]

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