September 25 2012

Obama Say He Pays Taxes So Other People’s Children (Not His) Can Go to “Great” D.C. Public Schools

Vicki E. Alger

President Obama took time out of his hectic campaign schedule this week for a visit with the ladies of The View.

Host Barbara Walters asked him, “What do you say to people who say you're trying to redistribute the wealth?” Obama responded that he and his wife Michelle pay taxes so other people’s public-school children can have “great teachers and can succeed.” And to what public schooling system was the president referring? Why our national treasure, the D.C. Public School system.

Leaving aside the fact that the President and his family live in the White House—public housing—and don’t pay the local property taxes that support DCPS, here’s what Obama told Ms. Walters:

You know, listen, neither of our kids are going to a public school right now in Washington, D.C.” He went on to explain that “we pay taxes so that kids who are going to public schools can have good teachers and can succeed. Now, I'm not doing that just for charity. I'm doing it because I think the economy is going to get better if every kid out there is getting the kind of education that allows them to be great workers and to help grow the economy.

Really? Less than 2 out of 10 DCPS students are functionally literate in reading and math. Yet DCPS get nearly $30,000 per student. With results like that, DCPS may be good at growing its own budget—which it did last year by overestimating its student count by more than 2,000 students, costing taxpayers about $18 million for students who never showed up—but the economy? Please.

Meanwhile, Obama has opposed the only program his own Education Department says is working: the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program—a program that lets low-income students attend the same kinds of great private schools his own children attend. And let’s not forget D.C.’s charter schools.

They recently posted higher overall scores on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System. Their 80 percent graduation rate is 20 percentage points higher than D.C. district-run high schools and about 5 percentage points above the national average. Those results help explain why D.C. charter school enrollment, currently 41 percent of the District’s 77,000 students,“will surpass the traditional public school population before the end of the decade,” according to the Washington Post.

D.C. Charter schools are doing all this with far less funding. D.C. district-run schools get nearly $30,000 per student, while D.C. charter schools get just over $9,000 in per pupil base funding, plus an additional $3,000 to $8,400 in facilities allotments. (See p. D-59.) Plus, charter school funding is awarded quarterly based on real-time student enrollment counts—so no taxpayer subsidies for non-existent students.

Another classic case of choice for me but not for thee: D.C. Public Schools are great—for other people’s children but not for the children of the president.

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