D.C. Vouchers - RIP?

The Washington Post laments the fate of the D.C. vocher program.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has decided not to admit any new students to the D.C. voucher program, which allows low-income children to attend private schools. The abrupt decision -- made a week after 200 families had been told that their children were being awarded scholarships for the coming fall -- comes despite a new study showing some initial good results for students in the program and before the Senate has had a chance to hold promised hearings. For all the talk about putting children first, it's clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. D.C. Vouchers - RIP?
  2. The Defunded D.C. Voucher Program:
Thoughtful (mail):
This is a great opportunity for some rich limited-government philanthropists to pay for private education for the 200 families that were going to get the vouchers. It might show some DC residents there's a difference between claiming you care and actually caring.
4.12.2009 12:51pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Barack Obama doesn't care about black people.

He doesn't want Sasha &Malia going to school with poor black kids.
4.12.2009 1:03pm
David Welker (www):
First off, I want to say that I support experiments with vouchers.

That said, I don't think too much should be made of this particular decision. The District of Columbia Public School system has over 65,000 students. This experiment affected about 0.3% of students.
4.12.2009 1:23pm
rosetta's stones:
This is a great opportunity for some rich limited-government philanthropists to pay for private education for the 200 families that were going to get the vouchers."

Perhaps not as great an opportunity as you think. Entrenched special interests have been known to block such efforts.

Here in SE Michigan a few years ago, a "rich philanthropist" by the name of Thompson wanted to donate $200M to open up charter schools in the City of Detroit. The governor, the city mayor, city council and the teachers' unions all conspired to block the guy. They literally looked a $200M gift horse in the mouth , andrejected it, and in arguably the worst school district in the country, too.

This remains one of the most disgusting political acts I've ever witnessed. If you want to blog about failed public schools, start there with Mr. Thompson's rejected efforts.
4.12.2009 1:26pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
Little shoots of individual choice crushed by the collectivist express. More to follow.
4.12.2009 1:28pm
Brian G (mail) (www):

For all the talk about putting children first, it's clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.

Are you suggesting Obama isn't a different breed of politican like we were all told? I refuse to believe that. Obama cares about children and would never letter this happen. After all, look at all he does for his aunt in Boston and his brother living in the hut.
4.12.2009 1:52pm
Borris (mail):
Wow a shocker.

The Democrats, the party that started the KKK and have the only member of the KKK in Congress, has screwed over black children.

Now those blackies can get back to picking cotton (voting) for their masters (Democrats).

But always remember, it is Justice Thomas (that raping black man) who is the "race traitor" and "Uncle Tom".
4.12.2009 2:04pm
Borealis (mail):
I am not an expert on education, but it seems to me that there is a paranoia about letting vouchers get started. The data after a few years seems to not prove that voucher schools are better, but that doesn't seem to be dispositive for me.

I thought that the benefit of a voucher system is to start a competition, and that over time a competition would lead to improvement in schools overall. In other words, a voucher school is not necessarily better than a regular public school, but the voucher system results in competition which continually raises the whole system.
4.12.2009 3:00pm
Alicej (mail):
In my experience middle class folks of any color avoid the public schools in DC. My impression is that the schools are improving there, although I doubt enough time has passed for them to be where they should be.
4.12.2009 3:22pm
therut (mail):
Liberals and Labor Unions 1------Children and Freedom 0. No surprise here. Do not try to leave the Unions or the Plantation you WILL be stopped.
4.12.2009 3:24pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Welker,

I don't think too much should be made of this particular decision. The District of Columbia Public School system has over 65,000 students. This experiment affected about 0.3% of students.

You do realize, don't you, that such experiments are always small, precisely because tiny experiments are all you can get past the adamantine opposition of the voucher opponents? It seems harsh that they can ensure that such programs affect only a minuscule number of students, and thus clear the way for others to argue that it makes little difference if the programs are cancelled, since they affect so few.
4.12.2009 3:41pm
David Welker,

I doubt you would say (for instance) "Bush's anti terror policies affected the civil liberties of ONLY 0.3% of the population ... "

I think I commented on first reading this news a few days ago: Neal Boortz is right when he says "the teachers unions represent a greated longterm danger to this country than the al Queda does"
4.12.2009 4:09pm
Alan Crowe (mail) (www):
I would like to amplify the point that Borealis made. Vouchers are a structural reform, not an educational reform. The change to the structure is intended to lead in due course to educational reforms that eventually show up in improved results, but it is anti-empirical to look at early results and use them to judge a theory that suggests that there will be a delay before results come through.

To spell out the causal chains a bit more, at the moment, if you are a parent, caring about schooling is emotionally painful because you cannot do very much. You cannot take your voucher to another school, you don't even have the threat of it. Once vouchers come in we expect parents to care more about schooling because it is not so painful to do so.

But what does the newly empowered parent do with their power? What does any-one who has been kept down do when they are newly empowered? They make a mess of things. We should expect that parents will be reluctant to accept a fair apportionment of blame for difficulties between school and child and will consequently move children too often, hoping unreasonably for better results at a new school. We should expect that parents will push for their children to be promoted into the faster and more academic streams where they will get left behind and flounder.

I expect vouchers to lead to a turbulent decade as ordinary parents learn and get real. After that I expect a decade of school improvement as teachers find that they have to respond. I bet teachers realise this and that the final line of defense against vouchers is to try to discredit them by assessing them on the kind of short (two or three year) timescale on which structural reforms have little prospect of showing an improvement.
4.12.2009 4:10pm
Shakes (www):
I had a question for the legal eagles on this forum.

Can Sec of Education Ducan legally kill this program like this?

It was an Act of Congress that started this program. Congress makes the laws. The DC voucher program is the law. So how can someone who is not Congress stop this program and tell people they can't join it. Those new families would participate this year. They followed the rules, filled out the forms and were approved. They followed the law.

It doesn't appear that Duncan is following the law. What good is Congress if the Secretary of Education disregards the law? Shouldn't some of those families object? Shouldn't we have the rule of law?

I know that Congress could be poised to kill this program when it comes under review. They haven't killed it yet.

Killing this program, like authorizing this program is the job of Congress. I don't see how Duncan can do what he is doing. I think he has stepped over the line and is either breaking or making new law. Does he have the authority to do this? Could he kill this program without Congress ever doing another thing?
4.12.2009 5:42pm
therut (mail):
If the MSM were not biased we would see 20/20 and the NYT go out and do an BIG story and interview these children and their parents and see what they think of the BIG BAD GOV denying vouchers for others in the future. But we will not here a peep from them cause all is well in liberal land.
4.12.2009 6:01pm
Brian K (mail):
What is it about a holy holiday that brings out all the crazies?
4.12.2009 6:45pm
Martin1234 (mail):
An additional fact that may be relevant to the discussion: Something like twenty percent or more of DC publicly funded students attend charter schools. So the DC system, with all its problems, and even apart from vouchers, is actually something of a leader in public fundings of (somewhat) market oriented approaches to K-12 education.
4.12.2009 10:41pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Brian K,

What is it about a holy holiday that brings out all the crazies?

I suppose "holy holiday" isn't redundant in secular-holiday-full America, but it still looks odd. Which "crazies" did you have in mind?

Seriously, I don't understand the zeal to kill this program. What harm is done by funding it? Who loses by it, and who gains? I can't see any reason for this decision that has anything to do with the welfare of the 200 children who would have benefited. Obviously they are to suffer so that others gain.
4.12.2009 11:28pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Brian K -

Two whom are you referring? Sincerely curious here. Allowing parents to choose which school they send their children to is one of the most common-sensical things libertarians propose. Even many die-hard liberals -- the Washington Post editorial board, in this case -- understand that teachers' unions oppose the idea purely out of narrow self-interest.

Which post is it you find "crazy"?

- Alaska Jack

PS Or perhaps you were referring to Arne Duncan?
4.13.2009 12:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The poor and the downtrodden(tm) are cannon fodder for the gullible. Show them suffering, keep them suffering, get votes and "programs" which can be looted by the 'crats.
Should the poor and downtrodden(tm) ever actually become non-poor and non-trodden, their usefulness would be at an end.
Somebody--a lot of somebodies--would then have to find honest employment, a concept for which they are utterly unprepared.
Thus...the poor we shall have always with us.
4.13.2009 8:37am
In my experience middle class folks of any color avoid the public schools in DC.
That perception is certainly widespread, and IMHO tends to be unfortunately self-reinforcing.

That said, there are plenty of middle-class families with DCPS students, including mine, and they're not exactly hard to find if you look in the obvious places (spelling bees, geography bees, and history &science fairs in middle-school years; debate tournaments, model UN, etc. in high school). DCPS's Woodrow Wilson HS -- which both of my kids attend -- offers something like 2 dozen AP courses, and sends students, many of them middle-class, to Ivy League and other top-tier colleges every year.

Sum of comment: if you base your impressions of DCPS on people who don't send their kids there, and thus know nothing about it, maybe you have some selection bias.
4.13.2009 10:46am
George Smith:
The NEA said "JUMP!" and Barry and Arne asked "How high?" on the way up.
4.13.2009 10:55am

"that teachers' unions oppose the idea purely out of narrow self-interest."

As a teacher myself, I can say that its not even self-interest (as I'm second career, I can also appreciate how opening up the education market would benefit teachers long-term). What it is is the same extreme risk-aversion that led many into teaching in the first place, thus never having to leave the comfort of the academic cocoon. Many of these teachers are achieving heroic results, given the constraints, but their views of how non-academic enterprises operate can approach the North Korean.
4.13.2009 8:51pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Desiderius -

Ha ha, good insight. I should probably make clear that, as individuals, I love teachers. Thanks for all the work you do.

- AJ
4.15.2009 12:43am

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