Education

Barack Obama: Stealth School-Choice Supporter?

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Mother Jones has a letter from a Washington, D.C. resident pleading with President-Elect Barack Obama that he "seriously consider sending your kids to DC public schools—and not a charter school, either, but a full-on traditional neighborhood public school."

Stephanie Mencimer notes in passing (and with strange forgiveness) that Obama's kids attend private school in Chicago, and she grants that D.C.'s public schools are "crappy" and complains about lack of resources without mentioning that the schools spend more money per pupil than just about anywhere else in the country. "I understand," she writes, "that choosing a school is fraught with anxiety and it's the most private of decisions."

In an update, she says:

At Barack Obama's first press conference as president-elect, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet asked whether Obama would be sending his children to private or public schools in Washington. He replied that no decision has yet been made and that he and Michelle would be "scouting out schools."

More here. Which is another way of saying, Hello Sidwell Friends! or one of the other ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive D.C.-area private schools.

Which is to say that Obama (as he has already demonstrated via his own kids) is in favor of school choice, at least when it comes to his family (he has said a variety of phoney-baloney platitudes about not "walking away" from public schools and creating more charters, etc.)

With that in mind, and as a parent with two kids in public schools, I'd like to write a letter to Obama too:

I understand that choosing a school is fraught with anxiety and it's the most private of decisions. Please extend and expand the same educational choice you and your family exercise with ease by giving school-age children more and better options. Making every school voluntary by giving vouchers equal to the current average spending per pupil that can be cashed at any educational institution you would be willing to send your own kids to.

This is, of course, not going to happen. Indeed, look for the Obama administration to follow in the footsteps of the Bush administration and further centralize and federalize control of the K-12 system. In fact, Obama has spoken repeatedly about the need for universal, taxpayer-funded preschool, which will have the added bonus of straitjacketing a thriving and decentralized and choice-driven industry. For more on that, watch below: