Members of Congress ( 38% of which chose to send their own children to private school) sent a cutting message about governmental priorities to parents this week. Ignoring the large crowd of parents and children begging them to preserve the Washington, D.C. school choice program, politicians brushed them aside to do what they felt was best for their own political careers: say “how high?” when unions said “jump!”
Adding insult to a real injury for low-income families, the US Senate approved a “Cash for Clunkers” bill the same day that would hand out $4,500 vouchers to people who trade in their old cars for a newer, more fuel efficient machines.
The cruel irony of the Senate’s actions will not be lost on the families forced to send their children back to dangerous, failing public schools. Apparently, many of the same elected officials who believe financial incentives are evil and destructive when they are given to low-income students who need an education, are happy to pass out benefits to people who can afford to buy new vehicles.
Actions speak louder than the empty words uttered on the campaign trail, and the actions of U.S. Senators say that they think good mileage is more important than childrens’ education.
The Washington Times is quick to point out the ludicrously transparent reason for the hypocrisy-
“Slashing school vouchers spares teachers’ unions from competition. On the other hand, car vouchers are supposed to boost demand for cars built by the United Auto Workers. The obvious explanation for this schizophrenia: Congress does whatever helps unions…
So why does President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan oppose school vouchers? Mr. Duncan told The Washington Post: “Big picture, I don’t see vouchers as being the answer. You can pull two kids out, you can pull three kids out, and you’re leaving 97, 98 percent behind. You need to help all those kids. The way you help them is by challenging the status quo where it’s not working and coming back with dramatically better schools and doing it systemically.” So don’t rescue any one from a burning building unless you can rescue every one? That seems like a weak position.
Indeed, Mr. Duncan’s reasoning would most logically support a 100 percent voucher program so that no one is left behind.”
South Carolinians who are horrified by this open slap in the face to poor families will be upset to know a similar struggle is going on in the Palmetto State.
Legislation that would allow students from poor families to receive tuition scholarships from charitable “Student Scholarship Organizations” has been relentlessly opposed by public education establishment groups and similarly-minded lawmakers. These opponents of school choice react with horror and anger toward any mention of “tax credits” for helping needy parents, but at the same time the state doles out tax credits for everything from”drip-trickle” irrigation systems to hybrid cars.
Where are all the people fighting a tax credit for hybrid vehicles because it “only helps middle and upper income families?” Why help for cars, but none for kids?
What is happening to families in D.C. is wrong, and the dismissive treatment of so many families in South Carolina who need educational options is no less so. South Carolina lawmakers have an opportunity to show Washington politicians that not everyone is willing to put students on the back burner to appease special interest groups. Hopefully these legislators will shun the cowardly actions of their counterparts in Congress, and rise to the opportunity of showing real leadership.