In the Arena

Democrats v. Poor Parents

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It seems that Barack Obama is trying to find a Solomonic path out of the Democrats’ embarrassing, ham-handed attempt to snuff the school voucher program in Washington DC. The President wants to grandfather the program for the 1,716 children who are currently using the vouchers to attend private schools. But if the program is working for those children, and others want the same chance, why not just continue it?

Because the teachers unions have a major stake in continuing the brain-dead, assembly-line  public school system as it  stands in DC and elsewhere.  And the teachers unions have whip-hand  control over the Congressional Democrats.  To be sure, the unions aren’t the only problem with our schools–every last educational study of the past 40 years shows that good parents create good students–but the unions, and their unprofessional work rules, are a major roadblock to the sort of creative experimentation that we’re going to need if our education system is going to rise above the mediocrity that plagues it even in the showcase suburban systems.

I’d much rather go the charter school route than vouchers (although I’d allow the excellent inner-city parochial schools to be part of the charter system). But the teachers are trying to block charters, too, throughout much of the country. And so, barring a wholesale public school reform movement, I’m in favor a private option in public education, just as I’m in favor of a public option for health insurance. In fact, this ain’t rocket science: I’m in favor of whatever works best to get poor kids educated and health care universal. I’m opposed to the special interests who stand in the way, as FDR once said, of bold, persistent experimentation.