Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Duncan Has a Boss

The Washington Post editors again write of the shameful destruction of the DC school voucher program:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has decided not to admit any new students to the D.C. voucher program, which allows low-income children to attend private schools. The abrupt decision — made a week after 200 families had been told that their children were being awarded scholarships for the coming fall — comes despite a new study showing some initial good results for students in the program and before the Senate has had a chance to hold promised hearings. For all the talk about putting children first, it’s clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.

[.  .  .]

It’s clear, though, from how the destruction of the program is being orchestrated, that issues such as parents’ needs, student performance and program effectiveness don’t matter next to the political demands of teachers’ unions. Congressional Democrats who receive ample campaign contributions from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers laid the trap with budget language that placed the program on the block. And now comes Mr. Duncan with the sword.

As admirable as these sentiments are, the Post editors almost entirely omit mention of the president, only noting in passing his personal choice to send his girls to a tony private school. But why make Duncan the heavy? Isn’t this the president’s decision — a violation of the spirit of school reform he gave voice to in the campaign? It really does make a mockery of his noble statement that he intended to be a good “neighbor” in DC. Throwing poor minority kids out of a functioning voucher program is about as un-neighborly as you can get.

So if one re-reads the op-ed with  “the president” in lieu of “Arne Duncan” one gets a better picture of what is going on here. The president has betrayed the kids in his hometown for the sake of mollifying the teachers’ union. It is about as far from “hope” and “change” as one can get. And it is, along with his egregious fiscal irresponsibility, perhaps the greatest disappointment of his new presidency — at least for those who were hoping he’d be a new kind of Democrat. Perhaps it is time for his hometown paper to focus on whom is ultimately and entirely responsible for this abomination.