Parents of the 216 students in Washington, D.C. who have seen Mr. Obama’s congressional cohorts gut the Opportunity Scholarship program must have found cold comfort from the President’s soothing words on NBC. The Heritage Foundation’s able education analyst Lindsey Burke tells us what Mr. Obama said to The Today Show’s Matt Lauer:
I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter did find a good public school in Washington to send their daughter to. But now, the Obamas have rejected that option. While his administration shuts the door to excellence for thousands in the District — and nationwide — the President and Mrs. Obama conveniently skip out.
I don’t criticize Barack and Michelle Obama for choosing a safe and effective school for their beloved daughters. The parental choice movement affirms the right of parents to make the best choice for their children.
What I criticize is the “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy that characterizes liberal approaches to education. President Obama and the liberal majorities in both houses of Congress are entirely beholden to the liberal leadership of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
It was the late Al Shanker, president of the AFT, who famously said parents are not “qualified” to choose their children’s schools. Shanker was a smart guy, but that was a dumb statement. First, if parents are not equipped to make the decision about where their kids go to school, how could you possibly trust parents to choose a president? After all,
presidents have access to nuclear weapons. Second, if parents are not capable of choosing their children’s schools, who is responsible for their lack of capability? Eighty-nine percent of Americans go through those same public school systems dominated by the NEA and AFT. If millions endure twelve years of public schooling and are still not capable of making a decision about something so close to home as their children’s school, it’s a terrible indictment of public education.
Who’d have thought that Al Shanker, the man who opposed every voucher initiative, every tuition tax credit measure, every attempt to loosen restrictions on home schooling, would deliver such a strong critique of his own “one size fits all” school monopoly?
President Obama is just the latest in a long line of limousine liberals who tax us more to spend more on government monopoly schools, then admit — only when cornered — that they would not put their own children in the schools they have created.
The President also presses for a longer school year and longer hours. Bill Bennett, the Reagan Secretary of Education, once compared public education to cooking a stew. If you have a big kettle of stew, and everyone agrees that the stew is not very tasty and not very nutritious, you don’t improve the stew by making more of it.
Mr. Obama cites other “leading industrial democracies” as his models for demanding a longer school year. Once again, we see him pushing to re-make America in the image of Western European socialist countries. If you go Greek you’ll wind up weak.
America’s public school system was far more successful before the massive federal intrusion. The Supreme Court was right to demand an end to racial segregation in the schools, but most federal intrusions have only wasted money and achieved little in the way of academic excellence.
It would be far better to return the money and the authority to state and local education authorities — those closest to the people. Especially, we need to increase, not diminish, parental choice in education. President and Mrs. Obama have exercised parental choice.
No one should criticize them for that. But we can and should expose Mr. Obama’s hypocrisy in denying that choice to millions of other parents.
Ken Blackwell is a visiting professor with Liberty University School of Law and senior fellow with the Family Research Council. He is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.