Parents, especially low-income parents, have a right to be confused about how President Obama really feels about education, especially when it comes to educational choices.
During the much-publicized hunt for a proper school for the Obama children, local public schools were clearly not even remotely considered to be adequate. Instead, an exclusive-and very costly-private school was selected to meet the educational needs of the first family. Subsequently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made sure his own children had the pick of the best schools, stating that their education was too important to jeopardize with a bad educational environment.
Now the confusion starts.
When powerful unions stepped in to crush the chances of low-income children in Washington, D.C. getting into better schools through a school choice program, neither of these very powerful, very concerned fathers stood up for other people’s children.
Despite rallies and pleas to continue the proven success of the DC School Choice Program, President Obama and Secretary Duncan stood by and let these children go home dejected and without hope for the kind of education that their own children are guaranteed.
As if this were not disingenuous enough, President Obama recently attributed much of new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s success to her single mother working hard to put her through private school-
“When Sonia was nine, her father passed away. And her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for Sonia and her brother… But Sonia’s mom bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, sent her children to a Catholic school called Cardinal Spellman out of the belief that with a good education here in America all things are possible.”
President Obama acknowledges that the children of low income parents who are engaged and able to get them into quality schools-whether public or private- have a better chance at future success and prosperity. His actions affirm his belief in this common sense truth, so why deny this same right to other parents by rejecting school choice?
All parents should have the opportunity to be just as engaged and concerned about their childrens’ education as President Obama is about his. In states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona many thousands of families are getting new and expanded access to the schools they want their children to attend, and the school choice programs in these states are thriving.
In South Carolina, parents can see the success of choice in other states, see the benefit of exiting a failing school- or simply attending a school that best fits their child’s personality or learning needs- but have little opportunity to do anything about it. At the same time, many state lawmakers ( with their own children in attendance or graduates of private schools) have taken an unfathomable stand against giving parents the hope that comes through the ability to choose.
In a short time, the second half of the 2009-2010 legislative session will resume, and SC legislators will have a similar opportunity to choose whether they will continue a national trend of increasing choice, or continue to pay lip service to parents while refusing them the options they need.