Education

Ignoring Facts in the Name of Science, Screwing Over Children in the Name of the Kids

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George Will, on the Obama administration's D.C. vouchers massacre:

Not content with seeing the program set to die after the 2009-10 school year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (former head of Chicago's school system, which never enrolled an Obama child) gratuitously dashed even the limited hopes of another 200 children and their parents. Duncan, who has sensibly chosen to live with his wife and two children in Virginia rather than in the District, rescinded the scholarships already awarded to those children for the final year of the program, beginning in September. He was, you understand, thinking only of the children and their parents: He would spare them the turmoil of being forced by, well, Duncan and other Democrats to return to terrible public schools after a tantalizing one-year taste of something better. Call that compassionate liberalism.

After Congress debated the program, the Education Department released -- on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery -- a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District's program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation's report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.

It's not just the hypocrisy (though that is massive), and it's not just the cruel gratuitousess (ditto) of the move. It's the steamy, faux-scientific, high-mindedesque bullshit with which it continues to be garnished. As Shikha Dalmia recently pointed out in this space, Obama had said during his presidential campaign, "Let's see if it [the voucher program] works….And if it does, whatever my preconceptions, you do what's best for the kids." Even yesterday, Education Secretary Duncan had the gall to write the following in the Wall Street Journal

No more false choices about money versus reform, or traditional public schools versus charters. No more blaming parents or teachers. We need solid, unimpeachable information that identifies what's working and what's not working in our schools. Our children deserve no less. […]

We must close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology. In the path to a better education system, that's the only test that really matters.

"Solid, unimpeachable information"? Here you go, Secretary Duncan. Pretty convincing stuff, unless your "ideology" sets you against vouchers no matter the data. Here's Duncan earlier this month:

"Big picture, I don't see vouchers as being the answer," Duncan said in a recent meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters. "You can pull two kids out, you can pull three kids out, and you're leaving 97, 98 percent behind. You need to help all those kids. The way you help them is by challenging the status quo where it's not working and coming back with dramatically better schools and doing it systemically."

Call it No Child Left Ahead.

You could use that exact same argument to kibbosh honors programs at every big public high school in the nation. As Juan Williams points out in a righteously angry blog post, the D.C. program was designed explicitly to sidestep the traditional argument against vouchers–that they steal from public schools and give to the privates. Strip that away, and the next line of attack is a sudden and uncharacteristic interest in skeptical cost-benefit analyses. Slap that one down, and the real face of Democratic "reform" is revealed–there shall never be vouchers, because our teachers-union friends hate them. But we're really doing it for the children.