Reason.tv: Barack Obama & The DC School Voucher Program—The president says he wants to do "what's best for kids." So why won't he save a proven program that helps low-income students?

Mercedes Campbell is one of the 1,700 students in the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school-voucher program authorized by Congress in 2004. The program gives students up to $7,500 to attend whatever school their parents choose. For kids like Mercedes, who now attends Georgetown Visitation Prep, the DC voucher program is a way out of one of the worst school districts in the country.

"It's different, now that I go to Visitation," says Mercedes. "I approach things differently. It's like a whole new world, basically."

The program is wildly popular with parents and children—there are four applicants for every available slot—and a recent Department of Education study found that participants do significantly better than their public school peers. Indeed, after three years in private schools, students who entered the program at its inception were 19 months ahead in reading of applicants unlucky enough to still be trapped in D.C.'s public schools.

Yet working with congressional Democrats and despite his pledge to put politics and ideology aside in education, the Obama administration has effectively killed the program through a backdoor legislative move. "[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars," says the president. "It's not whether it's liberal or conservative, but whether it works."

That sort of doublespeak has left many Obama supporters not just puzzled but outraged. Certainly, Mercedes is. "Out of everything else they can shut down or everything else they can advocate for, they want to take this one thing away?" Adds her mother, Ingrid, "We voted for you, we walked, we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why?...Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?"

That's the question that will be asked on Wednesday, May 6, from 1P.M. to 2P.M., at a D.C. rally to reauthorize the voucher program. For more details, go here.

"Barack Obama and the DC School Voucher Program" is approximately 5.30 minutes long and was produced by Dan Hayes and Nick Gillespie.

For iPod and HD versions, links to sources and related stories, and more, go to Reason.tv.

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  • Obama||

    "We voted for you, we walked, we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why?...Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?"

    Because I can.

    It's not as if I have to worry about losing the District of Columbia's electoral vote.

    Bend over and take it, bitch!

  • Xeones||

    The president says he wants to do "what's best for kids." So why won't he save a proven program that helps low-income students?"

    Because kids don't vote, but teachers' unions do.

  • Ben||

    Chains you can believe in!

  • Tomcat1066||

    The teachers union is more powerful than DC parents of kids in the program. It's not exactly a shock to anyone, is it? Besides, it's not the first promise Obama has broken, nor will it be the last.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars," says the president. "It's not whether it's liberal or conservative, but whether it works."

    This "whatever works" routine is a recurring part of the Obama scam of trying to portray himself as being some sort of non-partisan pragmatist as cover to obfuscate the fact that what he's actually doing is pushing the agenda of the extreme left across the board.

    There isn't any policy initiative that he is pushing that has ever "worked".

  • ||

    Because is a typical liberal Democrat. He's beholding to unions and anyone with money who can help him push his socialist agenda. Doing what is right for the kids is socialst speak for, I bow to the money of unions. He's a liar and a hypocrite, besides a fraud. What else would you expect from him.

  • ||

    "Out of everything else they can shut down or everything else they can advocate for, they want to take this one thing away?"

    Because the head negro in charge says that your kids need to go to public schools, that is why. People need to know their places and learn to shut up.

  • ||

    That sort of doublespeak has left many Obama supporters not just puzzled but outraged.

    Is there any Obama story that couldn't include that line?

    Schools, CA pot raids, taxes, torture/rendition/Gitmo . . . .

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Young Mercedes just learned something the neither the DC school system nor Visitation Prep could better teach her: Obama is just as much a lying sack of crap as any other politician.

  • ||

    A question for Gillespie:

    On a scale of 1-10, 10 being absolute causality and 1 no effect whatsoever:

    To what extent has the 30+ year coordinated industrial policy of Japan and Germany contributed to the success of their respective auto industries?

  • ||

    These voucher programs are good evidence as to why we should privatize education totally.

  • Naga Sadow||

    I wasn't aware that Gillespie was an expert in such things . . . or you Jason O. I eagerly anticipate the answer.

    *yawns*

  • Joel||

    These voucher programs are good evidence as to why we should privatize education totally.

    Yet another reason why they must die, I'm afraid. A serious push to 'privatize education' would send politicians to the barricades faster than a Chinese invasion. "Educated voters? Outside our control? OMFG! DOOOOOM!!!"

  • ||

    If the GOP had any competence, they could turn this issue into a 30-second TV spot that would gain them 10 House seats in 2010.

  • ||

    You see the phrase "for the children" only works when taking away rights or liberties, it should NEVER be used to actually make things better for them, lol

  • ||

    BTW, how does $7500 compare to what the DC public schools spend per capita?

    -jcr

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    Why libertarians must oppose school vouchers ... and why liberals must oppose public education - a sampling:


    Should a person be forced to pay for the teaching of ideas he opposes?
    The journal Church & State itself provides what is a telling
    response, if not a definitive answer. One article brings to our
    attention a study of "private Christian schools' curricula" by
    Valdosta State professor Frances R. A. Paterson (published by Phi
    Delta Kappan
    in 2000) that found these to be "virtually identical
    to the materials produced and disseminated by the Christian Right
    and other economic, political, and socially conservative
    organizations," with "the textbooks and booklets frequently
    resembl[ing] partisan, political literature more than they do the
    traditional textbooks." Her research has revealed "a political
    bias in which 'conservatives are cited and quoted with approval,
    while liberals are given less coverage, omitted, or treated in a
    critical fashion'" -- and "that the texts appear to take every
    opportunity to espouse what would best be described as
    propaganda." An example: "One Bob Jones University Press text
    tells students that Catholics have 'perverted the truth of
    Christianity.'" And in the Letters section, a reader worries that
    "radical fundamentalists (Christian and Muslim), militia groups,
    isolationists, racists, etc. would be lining up for taxpayer
    money to fund their mission. Isn't that one of the most
    compelling arguments against vouchers?"


    To answer the question before it's asked: No, nowhere in
    Church & State does anyone voice any concern about "taxpayer
    money" -- either through vouchers or public education -- falling
    into the hands of radical atheists, anarchist groups, pacifists,
    Afrocentrists or anyone in any way "left of center." But what
    about the "conscience of millions of people" who believe that
    current public school texts are "virtually identical to the
    materials produced and disseminated by the Christian [Left, e.g.,
    the National Council of Churches] and other economic, political,
    and socially [liberal] organizations" -- that is, that these
    publications increasingly "resemble partisan, political
    literature more than they do the traditional textbooks"? What
    about those who detect in public education a "political bias"
    where liberals are "cited and quoted with approval,"
    while conservatives are "given less coverage,
    omitted, or treated in a critical fashion"?
    What is Americans United's point -- that the
    First Amendment is violated by tax-funded right-wing bias in
    voucher schools, but not by tax-funded left-wing bias in public
    schools? Is their concern for "the rights of conscience" really a
    matter of "core principles," as the editorial spins it -- or just
    a case of selective indignation? After all, if a humanist has a
    right not to have his tax dollars purchase textbooks that he
    personally feels are "fundamentalist," doesn't a fundamentalist
    have the same right not to have his tax dollars purchase
    textbooks that he personally feels are "humanist"? And if a Roman
    Catholic is right to object to voucher school books that
    Church & State considers anti-Catholic,
    then isn't he just as right to
    object to public school books that he considers anti-Catholic? Who will determine whether a state-funded teaching violates the
    conscience of an individual -- the individual or the state?


    Should a person be forced to pay for the teaching of ideas he opposes? If yes, then vouchers are no more objectionable
    than public education. But if no, then it doesn't make a
    difference who the person is, what the ideas are or where the
    teaching's at -- a tax-funded voucher school or a tax-funded
    public school.

    READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

  • ||

    jcr: Apparently DC spends about $25,000 per child.

  • matt2||

    Shut the fuck up, Loberfeld.

  • ||

    re: Failed US auto companies. Fine, bash away and not without good cause. American cars sucked from 1980-2000.

    The Japanese government has for decades manipulated F/X markets to maintain a weak Yen/Dollar. It helps exporters like, say auto companies.

    The BOJ/MOF also coordinates with OEMs and their suppliers to control what each party charges the other for everything from raw materials to finished components, e.g., dashboards and seats and whatnot. In the US you go to jail for this, see antitrust law, Standard Oil, et al.

    Meanwhile the US instituted CAFE standards, which created the incentive to build massively profitable trucks/SUVs and piece of shit small cars with high MPGs that lose $ per unit but that skew the fleet average to conform with CAFE. Toyota even tried to get in on this with the Tundra, but that's not working out too well as the Tundra is being outsold 10:1 by F-150 and Silverado/Sierra.

    To decry "industrial policy" in the US and not acknowledge its success overseas is just like the average libertarian: Riding your ideology down, Slim Pickens-style, waving the shit out of your hat.

    Crichton was exactly right: Business is war, and they fucked us up.

  • Back to Work||

    Why?...Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?



    Make sure you post his response on YouTube.

  • The Big O||

    "We voted for you, we walked, we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why?...Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?"

    Because, you powerless serf, I am the tool of the financial and power elite. How else could I have risen so fast to become the puppet ruler of the world, hailed by all as the next messiah? Why else would my administration, like the previous one, be handing over trillions of dollars to the very wealthiest few who control all the world's financial system?

    They control the teachers' unions, which ensures your kids and the next generation will be "taught" to keep their proper place in society: as underclass dependents forever distracted by mindless media propaganda, begging us to let them keep their hovels, their drone jobs, and their socialized medical care.

    Now shut up and get back to work! BWAHAHAHAHAH!

  • ||

    To decry "industrial policy" in the US and not acknowledge its success overseas is just like the average libertarian:

    The industrial policy of Japan can boast what appears to be a permanent recession.

    The industrial policy of Germany can boast of sub-par GDP growth and permanent double-digit unemployment.

    Industrial policy can always loot other sectors of the economy to benefit a preferred sector. What it can't do, by all the evidence, is lift an economy in its entirety for any length of time.

  • ||

    RC Dean, how much of Germany's unemployment is due to generous safety netting? Yes, I am ignorant of this as well.

  • ||

    Please have someone who understands statistical evaulation read the report to you. Because of the excessive attrition of students from both the control and treatment groups, the authors caution that one should be carefull about reading to much into the statistically significant findings on reading improvement and math non-improvement. They also report that the group of students targeted by the legislation and program did not differ from those who did not get a voucher. Some of these students in the treatment group--those who used the voucher, were enrolled in public schools in DC, while some of the control group students-those eligible for a voucher but not offered one, were enrolled in private schools in DC. So your blast at DC public schools is not warranted by the report. Please educate yourself before calling for my tax dollars to be spent supporting religious private schools.

  • ||

    The Japanese government has for decades manipulated F/X markets to maintain a weak Yen/Dollar. It helps exporters like, say auto companies.

    Unfortunately for the Japanese, their government does not control the forex markets. The credit inflation they used to weaken the yen is now coming back to bite them, and the industries that have supposedly benefitted from the weak yen will be devastated as the yen continues to strengthen towards 60/USD.

    Sometimes it can take decades for the unintended consequences of government economic manipulations to manifest themselves.

  • JP||

    Nice work, Nick.

    But I was waiting for you to say, "GIVE ME A BREAK!"

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Silly Reasonites... "choice" only applies to people of the same sex who want to marry and women who want to ditch the cells growing in her belly.

  • ||

    The DC school voucher program isn't about politics. It's about the US Constitution, and Hayes and Gillespie have totally excluded that important part of this controversy from this video. Columnist Roland S. Martin has recently bemoaned the loss of the DC school voucher program. This is what I wrote to him . . .

    Stop pitting private schools against public schools. Stop criticizing people who have the money to send their children to private schools. There is good education and bad education in every school, private and public. The controversy over the school voucher program is not an education problem; it's a US Constitution problem.

    Vouchers are funded with public money. We have a healthy separation of church and state in the United States. This separation of church and state is outlined in The US Constitution. We cannot use public money to support religious institutions. Vouchers support religious institutions. Vouchers are a violation of church and state. Vouchers violate The US Constitution. End of debate.

  • ||

    OH NOES! Could it be that Obama is just another politician?

    Stupid people elect corrupt or incompetent politicians. Our country is a perfect example. Bush/Obama.

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Vouchers are funded with public money. We have a healthy separation of church and state in the United States. This separation of church and state is outlined in The US Constitution. We cannot use public money to support religious institutions. Vouchers support religious institutions. Vouchers are a violation of church and state. Vouchers violate The US Constitution. End of debate.


    Stephen: I would argue that's a stunningly convenient reading of the Constitution. The Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

    Supporting religious organizations with public funds does nothing of the sort. If Congress said, "none but Anglican schools -- over which Queen Elizabeth II reigns -- shall receive funds appropriated for school vouchers," then Houston, we've got a problem. Congress has then established Anglicanism as the sole religion of merit and worthy of government support.

    Yet, if the same public monies support St. Alban's, the Madrassa of Muhammad, Aleph Bet Day School, and the Wiccan Academy of Amphibious Hallucinogens, then there is no such establishment. Mere support of a diversity of religions does not establish a state religion.

    I dislike the concept of public funds supporting religious schools as much as the next unbeliever, but supporting the institutions of multiple religious sects is anything but "establishment."

    And, anyone who uses the phrase, "end of debate..." Well, it's enough to pejoratively state, "Deutschland Deutschland uber alles."

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    Vouchers support religious institutions

    You mean to say that there are no private schools that are not religious? Really?? None??

    .. Hobbit

  • Enyap||

    Stephen, the money is given to the parents to spend, as they see fit, not directly to a school. Do you also argue against tax cuts, on the basis that someone might donate theirs to a religious charity.

  • ||

    The reason that Democrats and even alot of Republicans (exception Libertarians) Do not want privatization of of the educational system is that they would no longer control what people learn, and God help politicians when the voting block actually thinks and is educated, and does not just vote how cnn, fox news, or the liberal newspaper propaganda machines tell them. And then of course their are the Unions who are completely on board for New World order big brother/ socialism; Who give money to campaigns.

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Well then, if Enyap is correct (which I don't doubt) and the monies are allocated directly to parents, my analysis is completely moot and the Constitution is about as relevant as a cup of warm piss.

  • Naga Sadow||

    So German and Japanese governments, funded by their citizens, have heavily subsidized their industries? So I should worry that German and Japanese citizens are willing to pay me to buy their products?

  • ||

    The argument that vouchers are funding religous institutions is false. The Government is not supporting any religous institution. It takes tax dollars and gives it to parents to decide then where to educate their children. If it is a catholic school etc. that is the parents choice(not the government). Using the communist liberal logic that vouchers are a violation of church and state; One could argue that stimulus checks (welfare handouts) are a violation of church and state! Because people could theoretically use that money to buy a jesus statue! or a shiny new Mezuzah! And so then the liberals must immediately advocate for no more stimulus check hand outs as it is a violation of church and state. Maybe someone might donate the money to a church! Cant have that.

  • ||

    Stephen Nicola: Are you against the G.I. Bill as well? My Dad used it to go to a Catholic college (even though we aren't Catholic).

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Stephen Nicola: Are you against the G.I. Bill as well? My Dad used it to go to a Catholic college (even though we aren't Catholic).

    Or, for that matter, Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, etc. etc. I'm willing to guess many Reasonites are, indeed, opposed to those programs, but not because they purportedly violate the Establishment Clause.

  • ||

    ResLifeSucksEverywhere:

    Go ahead - piss off your boss.
    See how long he keeps signing your paycheck.

    Now tell me that magical government money has no strings attached.
    (Or, did you oppose the Bush administrations restrictions on funding stem cell research?)

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Malto Dextrin -- I have tenure. I have no boss. Muhahaha (or however the evil laugh is spelled).

  • Tim||

    The argument is that most of the private schools are religious schools and there isn't the choice that you claim. Especially near the poor neighborhoods. It's like saying they have a choice to buy a statue but the only statue stores in the area which they can shop at sell nothing but Jesus statues. So the money will very clearly be used for indoctrination into specific origanized religions. And that is definitely not how tax money should be used.

  • ||

    Twenty five grand per child?

    Holy crap, no wonder the cartel fights tooth and nail for the status quo. Poor kids are a freaking gold mine.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, etc. etc. I'm willing to guess many Reasonites are, indeed, opposed to those programs

    I'm opposed to all of those programs, and I'm opposed to any federal involvement in eduction, since it's not among the enumerated powers in the constitution. Ultimately, I'm in favor of the total separation of school and state, but until we're able to achieve that, a voucher system is demonstrably superior to letting governments actually operate schools.

    -jcr

  • ||

    "We voted for you, we walked, we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why?...Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?"

    You proved you were stupid and naive by voting for me, now I must kick you out of my kids rival schools or else your ignorance may rub off on them. You voted for big government and now you'll get down on your knees and worship my big government!

    What's that? JP Morgan needs another 20 billion? yes sir, I'll wire that right over.

  • ||

    Vouchers given to parents who can then choose which school to send the kids to, even if a parochial school, is not unconstitutional so sayeth the Supreme Court. It's not gov't endorsement, it's a private choice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zelman_v._Simmons-Harris

  • ||

    I have tenure. I have no boss. Muhahaha (or however the evil laugh is spelled).

    Just like that guy living under a bridge.

  • ||

    Andy, this might be a shock to you but the entire concept of School Choice was founded in Wisconsin by a Republican Governor along with a Democrat Mayor and a School Board President that was powerless against an all Union School Board.

    And despite overwhelming Republican support, the Democrats opposed it every step of the way. And sadly, those parents of the students that benefited from it, kept voting for the same Democrats that opposed it.

  • ||

    Vouchers for minorities are the Democrats worst nightmare. Educated blacks may breach the racial divide which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest electoral advantage the Dems have.

  • ||

    The republicans are idiots. Instead of exposing Obama's elephant size gonads/chains we can believe in, they are defending water-boarding.

    Maybe they thought the media would cover union graft writ large.

  • blah||

    Stupid. Why not fix those public schools, instead of just pulling out the kids we feel are worthy enough and sending them to school with white kids? Educated black people are what Obama is fighting for, because "black" is another category of "people." Which have "kids." Which is who the current public school system "effs over."

    See, the idea would be that if no one wealthy or smart has an interest in improving public schools, those schools will continue to be among the worst in the Western world. Hmm seems like that's happened already...

  • ||

    blah,

    Given the obvious union graft to guarantee decades of the status quo, surely you are not suggesting that anyone will "fix" the public schools.

    Indeed, not until the failures of our public schools are exposed by programs like this will there be any chance for reform.

  • ||

    Open communication is significant in order to solve the problem in a short while. All concern individuals must give his idea. The leader must facilitate the group. The Obama administration has just passed the 100 day mark, and it's been fraught with controversy and debate. Now he has some strong words to Corporate America. The bailout money that many companies received had better have been well spent, as he has made it clear that misuse of the cash advances made to start economic growth will be remembered, especially if anyone wants to line up for seconds. The President has stated that he does not like the governments' involvement in the private sector, since it detracts from the many other issues needing address. Short term loans to big business isn't what Obama would like to be dealing with.

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