A few thoughts and updates on vouchers and politics.  First, to frame the issue.  The Archdiocese of Washington D.C.’s Catholic schools have been having a particularly tough time lately.  After the conversion of 7 Catholic schools to Charter schools 2 years ago, the Archdiocese will be forced to close additional schools this year, largely due to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program being phased out by a Democratic majority in Congress, and with the Obama administration turning a blind eye.  With the disappearance of the program, additional Catholic schools may be at risk in the coming years.  If this program is phased out – there are still efforts in Congress to save or re-institute the program with leadership from Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) – it will be a major loss to parents’ right to educational options.  This is only possible because Congress, who holds the power, is not accountable to the people of Washington D.C., of which a healthy majority support the continuation and expansion of this program.

Two pieces of writing by education reform blogger Jay P. Greene will be helpful here.

His blog post, Milwaukee Voucher Students Have Higher Grad Rates, which notes the result of  a recent study adding evidence to the benefits of giving students greater access to educational options.  In this study, it was determined that students receiving vouchers had a 12% higher high school graduation rate, continuing to build the case for the benefits afforded to low-income students participating on choice programs.

The other article calls out President Obama for his failure to stick to a campaign promise to do what works in education.  Jay takes him to task on this over the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, and it is worth quoting his initial remarks:

Obama’s education rhetoric doesn’t come close to reality

By: Jay P. Greene
Op-Ed Contributor
February 3, 2010

In a major address last March, President Obama declared that his administration would “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” Unfortunately, the test that seems to guide the administration’s education priorities is not whether a policy works, but whether it serves a political constituency.

Consider the administration’s treatment of two federally funded programs: The D.C. voucher program, which it is helping to kill, and Head Start, on which it has bestowed billions more dollars. If the administration actually did care about results, its positions would be just the opposite.

How do we know that the D.C. voucher program works? Take a look at the rigorously designed studies released by the Obama administration itself.

Last April, the Department of Education put out its official evaluation of the voucher program. The evaluation, which used a gold-standard, random-assignment research design, found that after three years, D.C. students who won the lottery to attend a private school with a voucher significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery.

The gap was the equivalent of about five months of extra reading instruction. Rather than embracing what worked, however, the administration stood by as Congress worked to phase out the D.C. voucher program.

“Big picture, I don’t see vouchers as being the answer,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan observed. They’re certainly not the answer that the anti-voucher teachers unions wanted him to embrace.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Manhattan-Moment/Obama_s-education-rhetoric-doesn_t-come-close-to-reality-83382377.html#ixzz0eXf1GhyG

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