Education

Is Obama Waiting for Superman to Save the DC Schools?

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In the WSJ, Bill McGurn raises an interesting question: Why has President Obama, who was happy to intervene in local squabbles in Cambridge (Beer Summit!) and lower Manhattan (Burlington Coat Factory Mosque!) and who appeared on NBC's Education Nation summit pseudo-spectacle last week, gone silent on the question of whether DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee should be stick around despite the ouster of her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty?

"No one in Washington has more political capital than Barack Obama," says Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington D.C., nonprofit that advocates for changes in public K-12 education. "All he has to do is to say two simple sentences. First, 'I support anyone who gives D.C. parents more options and more accountability.' Second, 'We need to keep D.C. on the path of reform with a schools chancellor like Michelle Rhee.'"

For all his education rhetoric, Mr. Obama's reluctance here has a long party pedigree.

And a short personal pedigree, too. Obama told NBC's Today Show that the DC schools weren't good enough for his own kids, yet one of the first things he did in office was twiddle his thumbs as his mentor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) dismantled a DC school voucher program that has helped a few thousand low-income kids in the District escape what is generally acknowledged to be one of the worst public school systems in the country.

Word is that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been working behind the scenes to ensure Ms. Rhee stays on as chancellor, or that she is replaced by someone with equal commitment to reform. The fact, however, is that whatever magic Mr. Duncan might perform "behind the scenes" is no match for what his boss might do by speaking publicly.

Let us be clear: Arne Duncan possesses less magic than the Amazing Blackstone Jr. working a package of Jiffy Pop on a camp stove. More from McGurn here.

Candidate Obama pledged to run with any educational reform that worked, regardless of ideology. President Obama has shown a lot more interest in running with any educational reform that throws good money after bad to prop up a system that has manifestly failed to deliver improvements despite an inflation-adjusted doubling of per-pupil spending over the past 40 years.

Reason.tv checked out NBC's Education Nation summit and found that despite Obama's reticence, school choice is going bi-partisan and mainstream:

Hat tip: Scott Reynolds

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30 responses to “Is Obama Waiting for Superman to Save the DC Schools?

  1. Add “teaching your kids” to the list of jobs Americans won’t do any more.

  2. DC Comics should be pissed over that picture.

  3. Because I don’t give a shit about a bunch black kids in Washington DC whose parents if they vote at all are going to vote for him no matter what he does. The teachers’ unions are a hell of a lot more important than a bunch hood rats in SE DC who think they are entitled to some kind of an education. If they needed to know how to read and write, we would teach them.

    1. I’ve always found it telling that the people living in D.C (not including the ruling class) are so bad off. What does that say about the fedgov’s ability to represent, say, someone on the West Coast, if they can’t even take care of the people outside their windows?

      1. DC used to be run by Congress. And it suffered greatly from Jim Crow. Then they gave it home rule. And it basically turned into a third world country. And the voters seem to like it that way. Fenty got voted out because he actually started taking away government jobs and giveaways from the populace. When he did that he was done. They really don’t want clean government here.

        1. We know what you mean when you say DC, racists. Your whistle words are no mystery anymore.

  4. Shouldn’t Arne Duncan be the “Special” Education Secretary? Is there an Administration operative less intellectually impressive?

    1. The system is working just fine.

      1. And anyone who lies and says that its not will have to be re-educated.

        1. It was the Turbo-Tax.

  5. The public education system is working just fine – it was never meant to make people smarter. Quite the opposite actually.

  6. The White House “bully pulpit” isn’t going to be used to bully anyone who is already lockstep behind the White House.

  7. What is it about Barack Obama that makes some people forget he’s a Democrat? The teachers unions have far more influence than concerned parents ever will.

    1. Hope and Change

  8. Candidate Obama pledged to run with any educational reform that worked, regardless of ideology.

    He also promised to be the candidate that would end the era of politics as usual. Once in office, he became the president of politics as usual. He is simply being consistent.

  9. Nothing is more amusing that people prattling on about how we have to reform education…its like the domestic ‘peace in the Middle East.’

  10. The Economist, which used to be a decent magazine, ran an article this week in which it actually praises Obama’s stance on school choice without mentioning his failure to stop Durban from scuttling choice in DC.
    “Mr Obama has gone further than many expected in pushing school reform, not least by setting up the Race to the Top competition for additional money.” Ending school choice in DC appears not to have been worth mentioning.

    http://www.economist.com/node/17148968?story_id=17148968

    1. He wouldn’t have to do much to “go further than many expected.” So they’re being truthful in a trivial way.

  11. educational reform that throws good money after bad to prop up a system that has manifestly failed to deliver improvements despite an inflation-adjusted doubling of per-pupil spending over the past 40 years.

    Schools are underfunded.

  12. “Obama told NBC’s Today Show that the DC schools weren’t good enough for his own kids”

    You’ve got to be a fucking idiot to believe that sending the children of the President of the United States would not be massively disruptive at a public school.

    *looks around*

    Oh.

    1. “You’ve got to be a fucking idiot to believe that sending the children of the President of the United States would not be massively disruptive at a public school.”

      You’re right, most private schools are built to accommodate that sort of thing, but public schools? It’s a good thing he wasn’t so selfish as to send his kids there and deprive those public school kids of an undisrupted education.

    2. Amy Carter went to DC public schools during her dad’s administration.

      1. And she was the last.

        I actually don’t have a problem with the President of the United States sending his kids to private school.

        It’s the hypocrisy of this particular administration’s view on school reform and so-called “choice” that makes Obama’s school ‘choice’ so notable.

    3. You’ve got to be a fucking idiot to believe that sending the children of the President of the United States would not be massively disruptive at a public school.

      *looks around*

      Oh.

      So Jimmy Carter was a fucking idiot?

      Amy Carter attended Washington, DC, public schools,[1] including Stevens Elementary School and Hardy Middle School

  13. …dismantled a DC school voucher program that has helped…

    Private school teacher are not members of a union the tithe the union members pay and kickback a percentage to the Democratic Party.

    It is as simple as that. While I hope it never happens, if private school teachers were to join a union and agree to kickback part of their salaries to the Democratic Party, then the voucher program would continue.

    1. …the that tithe…

  14. You know, the President’s kids have gone to public schools in the past. It didn’t seem to set off any kind of apocalypse.

    Of course, the whole disruption thing is just a byproduct of the grossly inflated power and ego of the President. Its only disruptive because his kids aren’t kids, they are the spawn of the God-Emperor.

    Why is it OK to massively disrupt a private school by sending the spawn of the God-Emperor there, but not OK to do the same to a public school?

  15. Yes, Amy Carter went to public schools in DC and the press went on and on about how this was disruptive and a slap in the face of the private schools. The question one needs to ask: did the DC voucher experiment improve student achievement? The research said no. Rhee and others talk a big game but have nothing to show for it. The voters said no to her boss and her. That is the way it should work. Why are the schools so bad? Lets address that instead of experimenting with choice.

    1. Actually, the research showed slight gains in reading and no gains in math. And they only ran it a couple years.

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