Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Obama Goes Against Instincts, Helps Poor Black Kids

Obama deserves credit for doing the right thing here. But again, if he's admitting that the voucher program has benefits, namely allowing poor black kids to stay in private schools instead of being sent back to violent, decrepit ones, why is he against the program in the first place? Two Words: Campaign Cash.
From The Washington Post:
Obama Offers D.C. Voucher Program Extension for Existing Students
Updated 4:16 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray
President Obama will seek to extend the controversial D.C. school voucher program until all 1,716 participants have graduated from high school, although no new students will be accepted, according to an administration official who has reviewed budget details scheduled for release tomorrow.

The budget documents, which expand on the fiscal 2010 blueprint that Congress approved last month by outlining Obama's priorities in detail, would provide $12.2 million for the Opportunity Scholarship Program for the 2009-2010 school year. The new language also would revise current law that makes further funding for existing students contingent on Congress's reauthorization of the program beyond its current June 2010 expiration date. Under the Obama proposal, further congressional action would not be necessary, and current students would automatically receive grants until they finish school.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan had told reporters that it didn't make sense "to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning," but Democrats effectively terminated the program by requiring its reauthorization. Obama must now convince Democratic lawmakers to endorse a gradual phase out by continuing to include grant funding in future appropriation bills.

The voucher program was created in 2003 and is a Republican favorite, providing low-income students with a maximum $7,500 grant to attend a private or parochial school. All students come from households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line, and 8,000 students entered a lottery to participate. But liberal education groups, including the National Education Association, have argued that the experimental program is poorly administered and that voucher recipients have not performed measurably better in their new schools.

In a March 6, 2009 letter to Obama, the NEA president Dennis Van Roekel called the D.C. program "an ongoing threat to public education in the District of Columbia" and urged Obama to "use your voice to help eliminate this threat" by opposing "any efforts to extend this ineffective program."

The Department of Education recently issued a three-year analysis of student achievement under the program that showed limited gains in reading and no significant progress in math. But the White House concluded that moving the children back to public schools amounted to an unnecessary disruption.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who has been vocal advocate for the voucher program, praised the move but said it did not go far enough.

"We think it's a worthwhile program," he said. "We should continue. If it's good
enough for these kids, why shouldn't we allow others to get out of failing schools?"

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1 comment:

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