The Fundamental Dishonesty of Arne Duncan

Why won't the Department of Education stand up for D.C. school vouchers?


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues that we have an obligation to disregard politics to do whatever is "good for the kids."

Well then, one wonders, why did his Department of Education bury a politically inconvenient study regarding education reform? And why, now that the evidence is public, does the administration continue to ignore it and allow reform to be killed?

When Congress effectively shut down the Washington, D.C., voucher program last month, snatching $7,500 Opportunity Scholarship vouchers from disadvantaged kids, it failed to conduct substantive debate (as is rapidly becoming tradition).

Then The Wall Street Journal's editorial board reported that the Department of Education had buried a study that illustrated unquestionable and pervasive improvement among kids who won vouchers, compared with the kids who didn't. The Department of Education not only disregarded the report but also issued a gag order on any discussion about it.

Is this what Duncan meant by following the evidence?

When I had the chance to ask Duncan—at a meeting of The Denver Post's editorial board Tuesday—whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal "no." He then called the Journal editorial "fundamentally dishonest" and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him—despite the newspaper's contention that it did, repeatedly.

When I called The Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different—that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing—story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups at his office.

The voucher study, which showed progress compounding yearly, had been around since November, and its existence is mandated by law. So at best, Duncan was willfully ignorant.

But the most "fundamentally dishonest" aspect of the affair was Duncan's feeble argument against the program.

First, he strongly intimated that because only 1 percent of children were able to "escape" (and boy, that's some admission) from D.C. public schools through this program, it was not worth saving.

So, you may ask, why not allow the 1 percent to turn into 2 percent or 10 percent instead of scrapping the program? After all, only moments later, Duncan claimed that there was no magic reform bullet and that it would take a multitude of innovations to fix education.

Then Duncan, after trashing the scholarship program and study, emphasized that he was opposed to "pulling kids out of a program" in which they were "learning." Jeez. If they're learning in this program, why kill it? And if the program was insignificant, as Duncan claimed, why keep these kids in it? Are these students worse off? Or are they just inconveniencing the rich kids?

Duncan can't be honest, of course. Not when it's about politics and payback to unions who are about as interested in reforming education as teenagers are in calculus.

Politicians say a lot of things, but to glean any insight, we need only examine the decisions they make in their own lives.

President Barack Obama sent his children to a private school in Chicago rather than entrust their education to then-CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan. He's not alone.

And this is just another example of how the Democrats who killed this scholarship program, specifically designed for disadvantaged kids, are so deeply hypocritical and dishonest. Ask the two kids who attend Sidwell Friends School, home to Obama's children, on vouchers. Their escape from failing schools is about to be cut off by a complicit administration.

"A lot of folks will give you a million reasons to why things can't change," claims the secretary of education.

It's true. And one of the leading disseminators of pitiable excuses is Arne Duncan.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at