Commentary Magazine


Too Much to Hope For?

To their credit, the Washington Post editors have been championing the cause of D.C. parents and students fighting to keep the highly successful and popular school-voucher program. Unfortunately, as the editors note, “President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have already written the epilogue to this worthy program. Their disregard for how vouchers have helped children is so complete that it seems that the best chance, perhaps the only chance, for the program’s survival is for local officials to step in.” It seems that the 2011 budget allocates $9M for the program but makes clear that this is the “final request.” That may not even be sufficient to allow current participants to complete the program. The editors write:

Indeed, one has to wonder whether the administration is banking on the possibility that students will drop out of the program. What easier way to get rid of this pesky program that’s so despised by the teachers unions and other traditional allies of the Democrats? It’s troubling that an administration that supposedly prides itself on supporting “what works” is so willing to pull the plug on a program that, according to a rigorous scientific study, has proven to be effective.

But the administration has a higher priority, of course — protecting the turf of teachers’ unions. There has been virtually no effort by the supposedly post-ideological, post-partisan Obami to tangle with the Democrats’ most dependable political patron. D.C. school kids stand little chance when organized labor is on the other side. After all, how many phone banks did the D.C. kids man for the Democratic party? Did they give millions to elect a Democratic Congress?

In his State of the Union, Obama proclaimed:

Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment. I campaigned on the promise of change — change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or at least, that I can deliver it.

Well, one way to combat all that cynicism would be for the administration, for once, to say “no” to its favorite special-interest group. (In this case, they’d have the high ground by coming to the aid of poor minority kids. It would even chalk up points for bipartisanship, since Republicans overwhelmingly favor the program.) Is that too much change to hope for? Apparently so.

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