Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Obama's Education Policy
In the final debate between McCain and Obama, McCain brought up the issue of D.C. vouchers. It was embarrassing to watch Obama's response. He stood there in silence, looking down and nodding. It looked like he was being schooled. I fear that Obama will learn from McCain, and that the miniscule gap between their education policies will eventually close when Obama comes out in favor of vouchers. Hope I'm wrong. But I doubt it.
In the same debate, Obama pointed out -- as a way to give himself credibility -- his support of performance pay for teachers and said smugly, "This doesn't make me very popular with the teachers' unions." Obama believes in choice and competition, one of the major reasons why he wants to double the amount of charter schools. His support of vouchers would be consistent with his current beliefs, so don't be surprised.
Many edu progressives have said that vouchers would be a great idea if the amount of the voucher actually enabled a low-income family to attend an expensive private school. There is not a single voucher plan that I know of that does this. But even if there were, private schools can decide who they let in and who they decide to kick out -- with zero public accountability for either decision. And even if there were adequate funds to send every kid to Exeter and private schools were compelled to admit and retain a diverse body of low-income minority students, there's only so much room at the Exeters of the world. So when Exeter is filled to capacity, where do kids go to school? Vouchers feed the chasm that exists between have and have-not schools. If you're lucky enough to get into a choice school via a voucher, then God bless you. But if you're not so lucky?
The solution, of course, is to make every school a "choice" school. How do you do that? That's a tough question, but this is precisely the kind of tough question that Obama should be posing, not caving to a solution that only exacerbates the problem.