News Ticker powered by Fox News

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arne Duncan: DC Voucher to Stay for Now

US schools chief wants DC kids to keep vouchers By LIBBY QUAID – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that poor children getting vouchers to attend private schools in the District of Columbia should be allowed to stay there, putting the Obama administration at odds with Democrats trying to end the program.

Duncan opposes vouchers, he said in an interview with The Associated Press. But he said Washington is a special case, and kids already in private schools on the public dime should be allowed to continue.

"I don't think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning," Duncan told said. "I think those kids need to stay in their school."

Democrats in Congress have written a spending bill that would effectively end the program after next year. The bill says Congress and the city council would have to OK more money, which is unlikely.

A vote is expected later this week.

Lawmakers, in a statement accompanying the bill, said no new children should be enrolled in the program. And they said D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee should take steps to minimize any disruption for kids as they transition back into public schools.

The issue of vouchers exposes a deep fissure between Republicans, who support them, and Democrats, who oppose them.

Republicans insist that parents deserve a choice if their kids are in failing schools, saying vouchers create competition that puts pressure on public schools to do better.

Democrats, teachers' unions and other opponents say it is impossible to expect public schools to do better while precious public dollars are being siphoned away to private schools.

"I don't think vouchers ultimately are the answer," Duncan said. "We need to be more ambitious. The goal shouldn't be to save a handful of children. The goal should be to dramatically change the opportunity structure for entire neighborhoods of kids."

The voucher program in Washington has been an exception in the debate over vouchers. Because of the sorry state of public schools in the nation's capitol, some Democrats were willing to allow it in 2003 when a Republican-led Congress created the voucher program.

And while big-city school superintendents generally oppose vouchers, Rhee, the schools chancellor, has said she is open to the District's voucher program.

"I don't think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids," Rhee told The New York Times recently.

The D.C. program gives scholarships to about 1,700 poor kids so they can attend private schools.

It was created as a five-year pilot program that is set to end this year. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote the spending bill language, which keeps the program funded through next year.

It is the only federal voucher program in the country. Other cities and states have similar programs — vouchers are available in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida, Utah, Arizona and Georgia — but they are paid for with local tax dollars.

Several states offer tax credits to help pay for private school, but those are also local and not federal programs.

Obama sent mixed messages on vouchers during his presidential campaign. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February 2008 that he was open to vouchers if research showed they work. But his campaign swiftly backtracked, issuing a statement saying Obama had always been a critic of vouchers.

Supporters of the District's voucher program are quick to point out that Obama's daughters attend a private school in Washington, Sidwell Friends School, that has a couple of students who get tuition help through the voucher program.

The voucher program doesn't cover the entire tuition at Sidwell, which is around $28,000, according to the school's Web site. Sidwell and other private schools have financial aid programs that also help pay for tuition.

And the voucher program doesn't help all children in District schools, where enrollment is close to 50,000 students.

When asked about Duncan's remarks, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the education secretary was "exactly right."

"Senators should listen to him by voting this week to continue funding vouchers for DC schoolchildren," Alexander said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


My Thoughts

Looks like the Obama administration was shown the folly in getting rid of the school vouchers, or they were shamed from taking away the vouchers the voters. Gibbs' response to the criticism and the sorry attempt to explain the decision shows that it might be the latter. If they really cared about the kids, they would do more than just throw more money into the pitiful excuse for schools.

As an ex-teacher, I have found that the schools' real problems are the lack of student discipline and parental involvment not the lack of money. No amount of money cannot fix either of those problems.

Another major problem is that the Teacher's Union has the Democrats so deep in their pockets that the Dems dare not challenge them or take any money away from public schools to give it to private schools

No comments:

Post a Comment