Obama Thinks Like a Parent, Bails on D.C. Public Schools

Today's Washington Post article on President Obama's semi-dis of D.C.'s public school system raises the issue of hypocrisy:

Some of Obama's critics say it is hypocritical to spend so much money on private school while allowing a federal voucher program in the District to lapse. The city's voucher experiment provides up to $7,500 a year for some low-income D.C. families to enroll their children in private school. The Democratic-led Congress and the Obama administration have rejected requests from voucher supporters to reauthorize the program, and it is being phased out.

The elimination of the voucher program was devastating to the 1,713 voucher recipients and parents hoping for a way out of D.C.'s notoriously bad public schools. But Obama's willingness to let the voucher program die isn't the most egregious example of his failure to step up and do the right thing for the kids his daughters won't be going to school with.

Clearly Obama cares enough about his daughters' educations to take a P.R. hit. Even D.C.'s presumptive mayor-elect Vincent Gray believes the president has exhibited sound decision-making, and declared that Obama was justified in putting his children's futures before his political convictions: "I'm sure he feels like he and his wife are making the best decision for their children at this juncture," the article quotes Gray as saying.

But Obama actually had an opportunity to make the case for public school reform while simultaneously helping to make D.C.'s public school system the sort of place he'd trust with his own children. This perfect alignment of the personal and political was D.C.'s Democratic mayoral primary, when current D.C. mayor and reform proponent Adrian Fenty personally asked the president for his support. Obama said no. Fenty lost.

The result is that school reform is basically dead in D.C. (and possibly elsewhere). Obama might not have been able to get Fenty re-elected, but he would at least have proven that he was willing to take risks to improve the ability of his city (and his country) to produce an education system he would be willing to trust his kids to. But he chose not to, all but insuring that Sasha and Malia will be going to Sidwell Friends well into the future.

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  • ||

    Obama's excuses for sending his kids to Sidwell doesn't hold water. Amy Carter went to DC public schools while her dad was president, and DC was just as bad if not worse in the late 70s.

  • Extraordinary Grace||

    Malia. "Bad" in Latin.

  • Tony||

    Excuses, Tulpa?

    Obama being too uppity for ya?

  • ||

    If he thinks the DC school system is good enough for other parents' kids but not for his, damn right he is.

  • Tony||

    Other parents' kids aren't under threat of assassination.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    And yet, Jimmy Carter's kid managed to survive.

  • ||

    I think that's the argument against DC public schools; almost every kid is in life-threatening danger.

  • ||

    I think you mean kidnapping... assassinating a kid who isn't the heir to a throne would be pretty pointless.

    In any case, there's just as much danger of that at Sidwell Friends and I'm sure the Obama girls have security out the wazoo following them around there. You could make it work at a public school too.

  • Tony||

    That was the entire rationale for Sidwell, I believe with the Clintons' recommendation.

    But yeah... keep sticking your nose in the president's family life whilst simultaneously asking him to get out of yours.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    I'm sure that my internet posting is causing a great intrusion into the president's personal life, maybe almost as much of an intrusion as his taking away the chance for some kids to get out of the DC public school system.

  • ||

    If Obama wants to express an opinion about my family life and choices -- as I have about his -- I've no problem with that.

    It's the coercing my family life that I have a problem with.

  • ||

    Obama is part of the ruling class. He gets to do what he wants; we don't.

  • Barack Obama||

    Let me be clear.

    Leave my daughters out of my politics. Their education choices have nothing to do with the future of this country.

  • ||

    I fucking hope so. God willing, after 2012 your educational choices won't have anything to do with the future of this country either.

  • ||

    Let me be clear Mr.President, your whole life is your politics. You do not get to pick and choose what goes in and what is out of bounds. Otherwise, the word for you is hypocrit. That is what is being conveyed here.

  • ah||

    Excellent!

  • ||

    Did anyone actually think he was going to send his kids to public school? No one is that stupid, right?

  • ||

    I have a hard time imagining the secret service following them around at a public school. I suppose the girls would also need their own bathroom, right? Can't be clearing out everybody else when the Obrats need to tinkle. I say hire tutors and teach em at home, if just to save any school, public or private, the security hassle of having VIP students.

  • ||

    I repeat: Amy Carter went to DC public schools during her dad's administration.

  • Michelle Obama||

    This conversation doesn't help my kids.

  • ||

    First Lady, your kids don't need help, we are asking you be supportive of less fortunate parents with kids who do need help. If that is really what you are saying, then jeez, come on - you are not in a bubble, you are in America, Washington D.C. with your children. If your child ever needed help, you can bet most people would be there for them. You care about what other people feed their kids, why? Healthy bodies to survive the streets? Please, First Lady.

  • ||

    Even D.C.'s presumptive mayor-elect Vincent Gray believes the president has exhibited sound decision-making, and declared that Obama was justified in putting his children's futures before his political convictions.

    I would agree that he can send his kids to any school he wants. I would not agree that this parental prerogative justifies in any way, as Mr. Gray implies, shutting down the voucher system used by other parents.

  • ||

    Stupid HTML.

    And, if you're looking for hypocrisy, you can find it. Obama made the decision that the public schools weren't good enough for his kids, and did something about it. However, (and this is the very definition of hypocrisy), he took away the opportunity for others to do what he did.

  • ||

    You know who else didn't have kids in public school and took away opportunities for others...

  • Colin||

    I wonder what percent of the 1,713 recipients will be voting Democratic this year.

    I bet close to 100.

    C'est la vie.

  • ||

    DC doesn't have any elections where anyone besides Democrats are running this year...

  • ||

    I don't mind that Obama made this choice for his own children. I just wonder about the Democratic establishment. They usually shit all over anybody who either criticizes the glorious gubmint skools or rejects them in favor of other choices. So why aren't they shitting on Obama? Why is it okay for him to decide that he wants, like any decent parent, the best for his kids, but it's not okay for the hoi polloi? Especially since the Democrats are always making this big show of being the champions of the "little guy".

  • ||

    I think you're allowed to criticize, so long as your criticism is nonspecific and accompanied by a pledge to "fix the public schools" and, most importantly, bucketloads of cash with which to fix them.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Isn't New Orlean's still pursuing serious reform? If N.O. is the 'Earth' of school reform, then I guess D.C. is 'Reach'.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Now why did Nick talk about how this costs $18 million dollars. If the $7500 per student is half of what it costs for a public school, isn't that actually a savings of $18 million compared to shutting down the program and sending them back to public school? Or were the public school budgets not adjusted for lower enrollment?

  • ||

    I hate him, and I don't even go to school.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Obama might not have been able to get Fenty re-elected, but he would at least have proven that he was willing to take risks to improve the ability of his city (and his country) to produce an education system he would be willing to trust his kids to.

    I doesn't matter WHAT Obama does, conservatives will shit on ANYTHING he does.

    If he'd allow the voucher program that would or not...the result from the conservative body politic would be the same.

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