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For the Children? Not!

April 23, 2009

After laughing bitterly about the bitterly laughable intended $100 million cut that the Obama administration is now trying to sell as being more than the rounding error of a rounding error in their $3.5 trillion budget (franchement, how stupid do they think the American people are?), George Will takes on the decision to kill the DC school voucher programme:

[Obama] has ladled a trillion or so dollars (“or so” is today’s shorthand for “give or take a few hundreds of billions”) hither and yon, but while ladling he has, or thinks he has, saved about $15 million by killing, or trying to kill, a tiny program that this year is enabling about 1,715 D.C. children (90 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic) to escape from the District’s failing public schools and enroll in private schools.

The District’s mayor and school superintendent support the program. But the president has vowed to kill programs that “don’t work.” He has looked high and low and — lo and behold — has found one. By uncanny coincidence, it is detested by the teachers unions that gave approximately four times $15 million to Democratic candidates and liberal causes last year.


After Congress debated the program, the Education Department released — on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery — a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District’s program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation’s report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.

The Senate voted 58 to 39 to kill the program. Heritage reports that if the senators who have exercised their ability to choose private schools had voted to continue the program that allows less-privileged parents to make that choice for their children, the program would have been preserved.

This undeterred activity to kill the voucher programme suffers from the same kind of hypocrisy as does the slashing of the defence budget, only worse. Voucher programmes work for the kids and their parents and it has the good unintended consequence that it allows for at least a bit of competition between public and private schools (which is also why the teachers’ unions hate it). Even the costs are quasi negligible as the DC programme uses as much money as most government agencies would find between the cushions of their sofa. What’s more, the amount the state pays per student in the voucher programme is about a fourth of what DC spends on average per student enrolled in a public school. There is simply no excuse for Congress and the administration not to support the voucher system and the president, who has declared education reform to be one of his main goals, should be aware of this.

Sadly, this case is representative of what the standard left’s idea of fairness entails: rather than allowing some to use opportunities and to become achievers, the left prefers to put a lid on everyone’s potential and to protect the special interests of the few and politically connected at the expense of the easily exploitable. And all this while they pose as champions for the weak and needy.

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