Commentary Magazine


Topic: education secretary

RE: Jumping When Unions Holler

A keen-eyed reader sounds the day’s irony alert: while the administration and the Democratic congressional leaders are undermining scholarship opportunities for poor, minority D.C. schoolkids, the administration is out touting its commitment to “civil rights” in education. No, really:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call today for stepped up enforcement of civil rights laws in America’s schools and colleges, as the Obama administration pushes to overhaul the nation’s education system and improve opportunities for minorities. … The Education Department will send out a series of letters to all U.S. schools and colleges, giving guidance on 17 topics related to equal access to education for minorities, women and students with disabilities, said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department also plans to review one school district’s treatment of students who speak English as a second language, she said. She declined to name the school.

For this crew, “civil rights” apparently doesn’t include promoting opportunities to go to a decent school. For the Obami, the civil rights bogey men are still white bigots and sometimes hapless bureaucrats. The solution is lawyers — lots of them, filing all sorts of lawsuits for any perceived racial slight and ready to pounce on school officials who have not complied with the myriad of “equal access” rules. And perish the thought that we should insist on children learning English!

But aren’t teachers unions the ones blocking the school doors that D.C. kids want to enter (e.g., the Sidwell Friends School, where Obama’s kids go and which is accessible only by scholarship for these children)? Really, the Obami’s is a cramped view of civil rights, indeed — one that neatly spares the Democrats the difficulty of telling their most generous campaign donors to back off. It is intensely self-serving and ultimately harmful to the minority kids the administration claims to care so much about.

A keen-eyed reader sounds the day’s irony alert: while the administration and the Democratic congressional leaders are undermining scholarship opportunities for poor, minority D.C. schoolkids, the administration is out touting its commitment to “civil rights” in education. No, really:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call today for stepped up enforcement of civil rights laws in America’s schools and colleges, as the Obama administration pushes to overhaul the nation’s education system and improve opportunities for minorities. … The Education Department will send out a series of letters to all U.S. schools and colleges, giving guidance on 17 topics related to equal access to education for minorities, women and students with disabilities, said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department also plans to review one school district’s treatment of students who speak English as a second language, she said. She declined to name the school.

For this crew, “civil rights” apparently doesn’t include promoting opportunities to go to a decent school. For the Obami, the civil rights bogey men are still white bigots and sometimes hapless bureaucrats. The solution is lawyers — lots of them, filing all sorts of lawsuits for any perceived racial slight and ready to pounce on school officials who have not complied with the myriad of “equal access” rules. And perish the thought that we should insist on children learning English!

But aren’t teachers unions the ones blocking the school doors that D.C. kids want to enter (e.g., the Sidwell Friends School, where Obama’s kids go and which is accessible only by scholarship for these children)? Really, the Obami’s is a cramped view of civil rights, indeed — one that neatly spares the Democrats the difficulty of telling their most generous campaign donors to back off. It is intensely self-serving and ultimately harmful to the minority kids the administration claims to care so much about.

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Jumping When Unions Holler

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.'”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.'”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

Read Less




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