Barack Obama and his party continually pitch themselves as the defenders and the political party of the poor. To look at the picture they paint, only they are looking out for the best interests of those living in poverty.
Conservatives and Republicans on the other hand- again based on the political and moral picture painted by Democrats- are said to hate the poor. They not only hate the poor, they want to keep the poor, in poverty. Read what’s been said by Democrats about Republicans since last week regarding the quality of life of the residents in Baltimore. Even though Baltimore hasn’t had a Republican mayor since the 1960’s, Republicans were still blamed for not addressing- or not having solutions to- the poverty-plagued pathologies that contributed to last week’s riots and mayhem.
But any cursory look will pull up numerous attempts- some serious, others not- by Republicans and conservatives to address and alleviate the effects of poverty. One issue that conservatives repeatedly bring up as a way to help the poor is the policy of educational reform and school choice. Conservatives believe that one of the sure fire ways to equip the poor- and give them the foundation needed to help escape the bowels of poverty is to allow them access to a good education. Part of that access is giving poor parents the opportunity to choose the kind and quality of schools their children attend in addition to the quality of teachers their children should have. This opportunity should be extended to all Americans, but particularly poor Americans. Forty years ago economist and Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman said that the most important thing we can do to help the (black) poor is to implement the school voucher system to combat the lifelong effects of poor education that leads to fewer opportunities for the poor to improve their economic conditions. This is precisely why conservatives are in favor of school vouchers which enable school choice.
But the Democrats want nothing to do with poor people having that choice, and they diligently and enthusiastically prevent parents from having the freedom to choose what school their children attend. Why are Democrats/Progressives so vehemently against school choice? Barack Obama enjoys the freedom and liberty to send Sasha and Malia to Sidwell Friends- a private school that costs more than $37k- per student, per year, but he and his party steadfastly refuse to extend that same freedom and opportunity of school choice to the poor parents in his adopted hometown of Chicago- or other poor parents across the country.
In my opinion, that’s morally and politically indefensible.
Democrats talk a lot about economic ‘fairness’ and “justice” for the poor, but conveniently avoid talking about educational ‘fairness’ or educational justice. Democrats talk incessantly about a “woman’s choice” when it comes to abortion, but they don’t allow a woman who chooses life to “choose” where her children go to school. This is because Democrats have a vested interest in keeping poor people poor in the same way they have a vested interest in keeping blacks perpetually preoccupied by racial boogeymen- to keep both groups solidly voting for Democrats.
Look at a recent Wall Street Journal article highlighting the benefits the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program continues to have for poor- mostly black- children- and how Barack Obama continues his efforts to defund the program.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which George W. Bush signed into law in 2004, has so far funded private-school tuition for nearly 5,000 students, 95% of whom are African-American. They attend religious schools, music and arts schools, even elite college-prep schools. Last month at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, I met with about 20 parents and children who participate in the program. I also visited several of these families in their homes—which are located in some of the most beaten-down neighborhoods in the city, places that in many ways resemble the trouble spots in Baltimore.
These families have now pulled together to brace for a David vs. Goliath fight to save the program. For the seventh straight year, President Obama has proposed eliminating this relatively tiny scholarship fund, which at $20 million accounts for a microscopic 0.0005% of the $4 trillion federal budget.
The parents and students point out that the scholarship program has extraordinary benefits—they use phrases like “a godsend for our children,” “a life saver” and “our salvation.” One father, Joseph Kelley, a tireless champion of the program, says simply, “I truly shudder to think where my son would be today without it.”
[Virginia Ford] tells me that “kids in the scholarship program have consistently improved their test scores, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to attend college than those stuck in the D.C. public schools.”
The numbers back her up. An Education Department-funded study at the University of Arkansas recently found that graduation rates rose 21 percentage points—to 91%, from 70%—for students awarded the scholarship vouchers through a lottery, compared with a control group of those who applied for but didn’t get the scholarships. For all D.C. public schools, the high-school graduation rate is closer to an abysmal 56%.
“If you’ve got a program that’s clearly working and helping these kids, why end it?” asks Pamela Battle, whose son Carlos received a voucher and was able to attend the elite Georgetown Day School. He’s now at Northeastern University in Boston. She says Carlos “almost surely wouldn’t have gone to college” without the voucher.
[A]mazingly, these energized parents are opposed by almost every liberal group, even the NAACP, and nearly every Democrat in Congress—including Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress but opposes a program that benefits her own constituents... Mr. Obama won’t even meet with these parents. A few years ago the voucher supporters held a rally with 3,000 minority and disadvantaged families in front of the Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed elimination of the program for all new students. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, one of the program’s strongest supporters, stood in solidarity with the families, while Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were nowhere to be seen.
Interestingly enough, I’d be very curious to know how many of these parents who’re desperately fighting to save the voucher program their children benefit so wonderfully from actually voted for Barack Obama and the Democrat party the last several election cycles. Though I sympathize with these parents, they can’t complain about a problem- the lack of school choice, in this instance- if they are directly contributing to the problem- voting for the very party that stands in the way of education reform and school choice.
So, Obama diligently and immorally continues his efforts to end school choice for poor black children in Washington, D.C. for no good reason. In addition, Obama’s Justice Department, led by then Attorney General Eric Holder, sued the state of Louisiana to try and prevent the implementation of a voucher program that would also allow poor black children a chance to escape failing schools.
The Justice Department is trying to stop a school vouchers program in Louisiana that attempts to help families send their children to independent schools instead of under-performing public schools.
The agency wants to stop the program, led by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, in any school district that remains under a desegregation court order.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the agency said Louisiana distributed vouchers in 2012-13 to roughly 570 public school students in districts that are still under such orders and that “many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process.”
The federal government argues that allowing students to attend independent schools under the voucher system could create a racial imbalance in public school systems protected by desegregation orders.
Jindal — who last year expanded the program that started in 2008 — said this weekend that the department’s action is “shameful” and said President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents.”
Desegregation orders? Really? In a state where 88 percent of public school students are black, claiming desegregation is the hight of foolishness and shows they truly have no defense for that which cannot be defended.
Another progressive, Bill deBlasio- the socialist mayor of New York City tried to limit both funding and expansion of successful charter schools immediately after he was elected to office. He also wanted to increase the rents of these schools which would’ve forced them to divert resources away from deserving students. Like D.C. and Louisiana, the majority of the students who benefit from school choice in New York City are black and increasingly Latino.
In light of that, look what USA Today had to say about the results many New York City charter schools are achieving-
Earlier this year, Stanford’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) revealed that in just one school year, the typical New York City charter school student gained about five additional months of learning in math and one additional month of learning in reading compared with students in traditional public schools.
These gains, repeated year after year, are helping to erase achievement gaps between urban and suburban students. A rigorous 2009 study from Stanford professor Caroline Hoxby found that students who attend New York City¹s charter schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade will make up 86% of the suburban-urban achievement gap in math and 66% of the gap in English.
What makes these results so impressive is that charter schools are not elite private schools. They are tuition-free public schools, funded by taxpayers and open to any student.
New York has roughly 70,000 students enrolled in public charter schools, and the numbers are on the rise. This school year alone, 14,000 new students in the city enrolled in charter schools with the vast majority in low-income neighborhoods.
All of these aggressive efforts (and many, many more) to limit school choice for the poor are from the very same political party that claims to have the best interests of the poor in mind. Keeping kids trapped in failing schools is good for the poor how, exactly? How does anyone who self-identifies as a Democrat, politician or otherwise, morally defend the status quo of forcing poor children to stay in failing schools that deliver substandard education?
Since many of these poor children also happen to be black, how do Democrats- who also claim to be the party that has the best interests of blacks in mind- morally or politically defend the idea that it’s acceptable to disservice poor black children when it comes to educational access and academic opportunity?
That Barack Obama is so ardently against school choice is one reason why his most recent weekly address was so unnerving. Talking, again, about the great benefits of education, Obama discussed his new initiative to have “libraries and major publishers provide more than $250 million in free e-Books for low-income students.” Obama went on to issue a challenge to “mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card, so they can expand their horizons in a place like this.”
That’s his new plan to help children from poor families get a “great education”? This program expands the horizons of low-income students more than access to better education in higher-performing schools?
In a global economy, we’ve got to help ensure that everyone, of every age, in every zip code – urban and rural – has the chance to learn the skills that lead directly to a good job.
That’s also why I’ve put forward a plan to make two years of community college as free and universal for every American as high school is today.
First, as most people should be aware, high school isn’t free and neither would two years of community college. Taxes in various and overwhelming forms fund this so-called free, subpar education.
That aside, Obama wants to give poor people more access to- and more resources at- public libraries, but less access to quality public education, as if this is some great fete to be applauded. All of this obstruction and window dressing comes at the expense of poor children who’ll continue to lack the proper educational foundation for the foreseeable future – minimizing future academic and economic opportunities, including economic mobility.
If this is what the Democrat party does when they have someone’s best interest in mind, imagine what they do when those “best interests” aren’t even considered.
This issue is perfect for conservatives and Republicans- politicians and otherwise- to continue to address and advocate for. This is a civil right that should be defended. But conservatives and Republicans have to craft a clear, easy-to-understand message and draft the right messengers if they want any chance of being successful. And as we’ve seen time and again, conservatives and Republicans- particularly the latter- are their own worst enemy.