In case there were any doubt, the White House is still committed to failing schools — oh, and the NEA.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote today — and pass — H.R. 471, the SOAR Act, or reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship (DCOS) program. Like clockwork, the White House released a statement in anticipation of the vote asserting it “strongly opposes” bringing back the program or expanding it to new students.
They were quite clear, in fact: “Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement.”
Not so long ago the DCOS program helped more than 3,000 low-income students escape one of the most expensive and ineffectual school districts in the nation. Students lucky enough to participate in the program had an opportunity to seek out alternative educational opportunities that produced real results.
Even the White House can’t ignore the dramatic improvements in academic achievement and graduation rates released by a federally mandated study. And it did this at a quarter of the cost of D.C. public schools.
It may surprise some readers to learn that the D.C. public school system spend $28,000 per student each year. To put that into perspective: That’s where tuition starts at the elite Sidwell Friends School in Washington, where the president and frst lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaWhy cutting back ‘free’ school lunches would be a favor to families Instagram taps former Michelle Obama, Clinton aide to lead communications Americans should get used to pop culture blending with politics MORE choose to enroll their daughters. Of course, the DCOS program only costs $6,600 per student each year.
The most important thing is that we don’t fool ourselves about why President Obama and this White House continue to oppose the program. It has nothing to do with academic achievement. And it has everything to do with the teachers unions. The fact is the White House took its language for its policy statement right from Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
In 2009, Van Roekel wrote a letter to the Democrats in the House and Senate about the DCOS program, explaining that the NEA “strongly opposes” expansion of the voucher program. More to the point, he wrote: “We expect that members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program.”
As Van Roekel explained, “opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA.” And we know the NEA is a top priority for Democrats.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.