On Wednesday, according to a Washington Post article, “Students, Supporters Rally to Save Vouchers“, former House Minority Leader John A Boehner (R—Ohio) joined D.C. council member Marion Barry and others at the Capitol in support of the D.C. school voucher program.
The federally funded voucher program provides scholarships to low-income District children to attend private schools. In the 2008-09 school year, it spent about $12 million on 1,716 students. This year the program will be slightly smaller because it was closed to new students in the spring, when its funding came in doubt.
According to the article, a Mr. Bruce Stewart attended the rally. Mr. Stewart, we are told, retired in June as head of Sidwell Friends School, a private prep school in the District.
“You shouldn’t consign these kids to mediocrity because of an accident of where they were born,” he said, pointing to poor-quality public schools in low-income neighborhoods.
No, you shouldn’t. But Mr. Stewart is being far too generous. Only in their wildest dreams could the parents in these “low-income neighborhoods” imagine that their neighborhood public schools would rise to the dizzying heights of mediocrity. Mediocrity would be a blessing. If they were mediocre, they would at least be on par with the public schools in the surrounding Washington suburbs. The simple fact is that these schools are far worse than mediocre which is why, given the opportunity, the vast majority of parents would opt out. You might say they would prefer a “private option.”
So, who is for giving them the opportunity? You might think that a program design to extend to the parents of those predominantly black kids in those “low-income neighborhoods” the same opportunity to opt out of the public schools available to President Obama would be the “progressive” thing to do, what with their concern for the poor, distributive justice, and all. You might think that those who want to preserve the present system in which only the relatively well-to-do can opt out (either through private education or by moving to the suburbs) would be the cold, mean-hearted, right-wing conservatives.
But this is America, folks. Here we have Boehner, the Republican Minority Leader, in in favor of empowering poor black parents. And we have the “progressives” telling them they can eat cake:
Democratic congressional leaders have said they want stricter oversight of participating schools if the program is to continue in any form. President Obama has expressed support for continuing the program for students already participating but gradually winding it down by closing it to new applicants.
The “progressive” view on these things, once again, seems to school choice for me, but not for thee.
President Obama’s daughters, it is worth noting, attend Sidwell Friends. I guess it would be too much to ask the President to explain why Mr. Stewart is wrong when he says, “You shouldn’t consign these kids to mediocrity [or worse] because of an accident of where they were born.”