Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
President Barack Obama’s decision to allow a successful voucher program in Washington, D.C., to wither away was criticized yesterday by USA Today.
Wrote USA Today:
Few national images are more shameful than those of innocent, low-income kids milling through decrepit public schools, uncared for, unsafe and barely educated. In Washington, D.C., alone, 173 schools — 67% — fail to meet federal standards of learning.
So it was curious that when President Obama recently allowed 1,716 of Washington’s neediest schoolchildren to keep, until graduation, the vouchers they use to escape their failed public schools for higher-quality private ones, he also closed the program to new applicants. All this occurred as the Education Department reported that voucher participants show superior skills in reading, safety and orderliness. The news was buried in an impenetrable study released without a news conference.
About half of the 1,700 low-income students currently enrolled at schools in Washington through the federally funded voucher program attend Catholic schools.
The Archdiocese of Washington rallied in support of the program after Obama’s decision against funding new students was announced.
The Education Department study further bolsters the already strong case for school vouchers. So why the resistance to funding vouchers by the Obama administration?
Here’s USA Today’s take:
Why the ambivalence? Because teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools. Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.
Vouchers have improved the math and reading of inner-city children from Dayton, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C., various studies show. The Washington vouchers improved the reading of girls and younger kids by about half a school year, though results for other groups were iffier. Yet opposition is so fierce that few voucher experiments survive past the seedling stage. Florida vouchers were blocked by a party-line vote in the state Supreme Court. In Utah, they were killed by a union-funded anti-voucher campaign.
This serves only to protect failing schools.