May 13 2009
Hypocrisy in High Places
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
Last week the President set aside $12.2 million of his $3.5 trillion budget so 1,716 D.C. Opportunity Scholarship students can stay in their chosen private schools. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, says this is "an ongoing threat to public education in the District of Columbia." Why? Perhaps because the program lets low-income parents do what D.C. elites do: pick their children's schools. And when given the chance, they don't choose D.C. public schools. Well over one-third of Congress Members send their children to private schools. Both President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are the beneficiaries of a private education. So too, are many of the 58 Senators who recently voted down an amendment by Senator John Ensign (R-NV) that would have preserved the Opportunity Scholarship for all D.C. students. More than 80 percent of those Senators attended private secondary and/or postsecondary schools. Close to a third of them (31 percent) attended private high and/or elementary schools.
Sources: Author's table based on publicly available information from Senators' web bibliographies, the Washington Post Votes Database, Internet searches, and information provided via telephone by Senators' staff when this information was not publicly available online.
For now at least a handful of American students in the nation's capitol have the same educational opportunity politicians and their children have. Still, more than 38,000 D.C. public schoolchildren from low- and middle-income families still remain in dysfunctional schools. How much longer must they languish, causalities of the latest political compromise?