Sunday, May 3, 2015

To Whom Much Is Given, From Whom Much Will Be Required ... Education, Choice, Freedom, Politics, Teacher's Unions, Hypocrisy and Inner Cities

To whom much is given, from whom much will be required. We the People have given much to President Obama, teachers' unions and the Democratic Party leadership these past several years. More on that later. But first, let's look at some relevant facts.

Baltimore has been in the news all week. See my post about free choice and educational opportunities for young Americans of April 28 titled 'Baltimore Today, Where Tomorrow ...."

This connection between a solid education and a good job is especially relevant today as the global economy and technological progress combine to make education the key to our citizens' future economic well being and our nation's overall prosperity.

President Obama has said that he wants Americans to do some soul searching about the problems of our inner cities and policing. While we're at it, how about doing some soul searching with respect to freedom of parental choice about where kids attend school and how they are educated?

In other words, what about giving parents and kids in Baltimore and elsewhere the opportunity to remove themselves from bureaucratic top down teachers' union operated schools where safety and a solid learning environment have long been absent? And how about reflecting on why allowing kids and their parents to opt out of bad schools and instead choose to attend good schools has long been actively discouraged by President Obama and his Democratic Party allies? Yes, let's all do some seriously needed soul searching.

President Obama, Are You Listening? is subtitled 'The president wants to zero out a program that is saving poor kids from bad schools -- the kind of reform that could work in Baltimore too:

"The scenes of Baltimore set ablaze this week have many Americans thinking: What can be done to rescue families trapped in an inner-city culture of violence, despair and joblessness?

There are no easy answers, but down the road from Baltimore in Washington, D.C., an education program is giving children in poor neighborhoods a big lift up. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which George W. Bush signed into law in 2004, has so far funded private-school tuition for nearly 5,000 students, 95% of whom are African-American. They attend religious schools, music and arts schools, even elite college-prep schools. Last month at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, I met with about 20 parents and children who participate in the program. I also visited several of these families in their homes—which are located in some of the most beaten-down neighborhoods in the city, places that in many ways resemble the trouble spots in Baltimore.

These families have now pulled together to brace for a David vs. Goliath fight to save the program. For the seventh straight year, President Obama has proposed eliminating this relatively tiny scholarship fund, which at $20 million accounts for a microscopic 0.0005% of the $4 trillion federal budget.

The parents and students point out that the scholarship program has extraordinary benefits—they use phrases like “a godsend for our children,” “a life saver” and “our salvation.” . . .

Virginia Ford, whose son escaped the public schools through a private-scholarship to Archbishop Carroll, now runs a group called D.C. Parents for School Choice. She tells me that “kids in the scholarship program have consistently improved their test scores, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to attend college than those stuck in the D.C. public schools.”

The numbers back her up. An Education Department-funded study at the University of Arkansas recently found that graduation rates rose 21 percentage points—to 91%, from 70%—for students awarded the scholarship vouchers through a lottery, compared with a control group of those who applied for but didn’t get the scholarships. For all D.C. public schools, the high-school graduation rate is closer to an abysmal 56%. . . .

Amazingly, these energized parents are opposed by almost every liberal group, even the NAACP, and nearly every Democrat in Congress . . . .

There is little question what stirs this opposition. The teachers union sees the program as taking away union jobs, and it is so powerful that the Democratic establishment falls in line. “It is so sad that our public schools aren’t doing what’s best for the kids,” laments Ms. Ford, but instead are looking out for “the adults.”

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program turns conventional politics upside down. President George W. Bush created the program . . . .

Mr. Obama won’t even meet with these parents. A few years ago the voucher supporters held a rally with 3,000 minority and disadvantaged families in front of the Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed elimination of the program for all new students. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, one of the program’s strongest supporters, stood in solidarity with the families, while Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were nowhere to be seen. . . .

While most affluent and middle-class parents worry if their children will make the travel soccer team, or whether the local school is good enough to get their child into a top university, these poor parents worry every day whether their children will come home safely. A 2009 school-safety report from the Heritage Foundation noted that in that year the Education Department “found that 11.3% of the District’s high-school children reported being ‘threatened or injured’ with a weapon while on school property during the pervious year.”. . .

The most common objection to vouchers is that they drain public schools of resources. But Ms. Ford notes that when the Opportunity Scholarship program was created, the feds gave $20 million for the vouchers and an extra $20 million for the public schools. This meant more money for the public schools—and unionized teachers still opposed the program. “They aren’t afraid that the voucher program won’t work,” she says, “but that it will.”

The left’s rote response to rotten schools is to call for more money, but the D.C. scholarship program shows that a quality education can be had for less money. The Census Bureau reported in 2012 that Washington spent $18,667 per pupil in 2010. The scholarship amounts are $8,500 for elementary-school children and $12,000 for high school. So the voucher program gives kids a better education at about half the cost to the taxpayer.

Several parents point out that President Obama and his wife Michelle shopped around and chose the prep school Sidwell Friends for their daughters. Several of the Opportunity Scholarship children also go there. Now the president wants to end the program for children who sit next to his own daughters in the classroom. “He lives in public housing too,” says Mr. Kelley, half joking. “Why should he get school choice just because he’s rich and we’re not? If it’s good for your children, it’s good for our children.”

Public education has traditionally been the great equalizer in America. The tragedy today is that the decline of public schools is one of the leading contributors to generational cycles of poverty. Democrats say they want to make the 2016 election about income inequality, but they stand united in opposition to one of the most effective ways of reducing the gap between rich and poor: better education. . . .

The Education Department’s spending for K-12 education will soon reach $50 billion. For what? How about a GOP plan that would take that money from the bureaucracy and distribute five million vouchers of $10,000 each to the lowest-income Americans—like those who live in Baltimore?"

Summing Up

To repeat -- To whom much is given, from much will be required.

President Obama is the first African-American U.S. president. He has been 'given' the nation's leadership reins for two consecutive terms. He is also a well educated man who was the beneficiary of many opportunities throughout his life. Now he's the political leader of We the People and the entire free world.

None of the above is disputed. Nor is it controversial. So here goes.

Q -- Why doesn't he fight to give We the People a chance to make our own educational choices instead of deferring to the powerful teachers' unions and Democratic Party leaders? A -- Because of the political situation, when educational opportunities are being discussed, our 'leader' isn't leading.

Giving all individuals freedom of choice is the accepted American way -- except when it interferes with the politics of the situation, that is.

And fighting the good fight for income inequality is the American way -- except when it interferes with the politics of the situation, that is.

And guaranteeing to each individual the freedom to choose how to pursue a solid education is the American way -- except when it interferes with the politics of the situation, that is.

Politics sucks. And talk is cheap. And when that talk is political talk, it's harmful as well.

Meanwhile, the poor in the inner cities of America continue to suffer, as does our entire nation, while the politicians play their stupid and self serving games in order to placate their political allies. And then they tell us to do some 'soul searching.'

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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