• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • School Choice Missing In Obama Address

    Students and teachers at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School began the school year with the ultimate back-to-school pep rally on Tuesday. President Obama delivered a speech to students at the highly-ranked Philadelphia magnet school, which was named a 2010 national “Blue Ribbon School.”

    Last year, the president delivered a back-to-school speech about the importance of staying in school and the merits of education, topics he reprised in this year’s address. Last year’s protocol included a letter from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to schools nationwide, complete with lesson plans for teachers. Of course, the lesson plans created a firestorm of backlash from critics, and we haven’t seen a repeat this year.

    Even absent federally-crafted lesson plans, however, the Obama administration’s larger plans for reshaping the country’s education system are worrisome. In fact, if the administration has its way, schools across the country will soon be required to teach according to a set of national education standards and tests.

    National standards and tests would be a significant federal overreach into states’ educational decision-making authority. But through the administration’s $4.35 million “Race to the Top” competitive grant program, which provided grants to 11 states and the District of Columbia to implement prescribed education reforms, states have already begun adopting national standards.

    To be in contention for a Race to the Top grant, states had to indicate that they would move toward adopting national standards and tests. And with most states facing severe budget shortfalls, the chance to win hundreds of millions of dollars in new grant money was enough for many to sign on to the proposal.

    But several states have refused to sign on to the standards, which were developed by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. But for the states not enticed by a RTT grant, the administration has indicated that they will tie access to Title I money for low-income schools to adoption of the standards.

    If they succeed, the administration will have orchestrated a significant federal overreach into what is taught in local schools. They will have done so without a single vote in Congress, bypassing normal legislative procedure, and without input from parents and taxpayers.

    If national standards and tests become reality, parents will lose one of their most powerful tools when it comes to directing their children’s education: local and state control over academic content and standards. As if a distant bureaucrat in Washington knows what’s best for — or is significantly vested in — the educational well-being of individual students.

    The kind of data national standards and tests will make available will be far more useful to bureaucrats than to parents. What parents need most is transparency about all the existent data that’s collected, and, most importantly, the power to act on it.

    We won’t gain educational opportunity and accountability by further centralizing educational power in Washington. This has been the trend for the past four decades, with little if anything to show for it. Despite decades of increasing federal control over education and a tripling of per-pupil expenditures, reading achievement has flat-lined, and graduation rates are the same today as they were in 1970.

    If the president were truly interested in raising academic achievement and providing educational opportunity, he would have told students today how he plans to empower their parents to make the educational decisions that will lead to a future full of opportunity.

    Sadly, President Obama’s track record thus far on school choice is dismal. He is phasing out the most successful school voucher program in the country — the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — because powerful special-interest groups, such as teachers’ unions, oppose it. For scholarship students in Washington, D.C., listening to the president’s speech may well have been a painful reminder that in most parts of the country, school choice is still an option only for those who can afford it.

    The administration certainly deserves credit this year for encouraging states to lift caps on charter schools and to have open discussions about merit pay and tenure reform. But for those students in Philadelphia, and across the country, not lucky enough to enroll in a Blue Ribbon school (such as the one where Mr. Obama made his speech), the best back-to-school message they could hear would be one that encourages equal opportunity through school choice.

    Cross-posted on FOXNews.com

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    20 Responses to School Choice Missing In Obama Address

    1. NoDropouts.org edito says:

      Also missing from Obama's speech: Any mention of Philadelphia's place in the dropout fight. The city has been a center of innovation when it comes to dropout prevention and recovery initiatives, but it also maintains a miserable dropout rate of nearly one-third of its students.

      If the president had addressed that elephant, here are 13 things we wish he would have said:


    2. Billie says:

      No thank you. Mr. President. Your example is of intolerances and irresponsibilities and hold neither including yourself, accountable. Instead of fixing the problem, you create a crisis. You're going way beyond your duty as it is, destroying all areas you have no right to all for crisis and costs sake.

      We value the individual minds ability and students deserve to know they are of value as you suggest otherwise by limiting their thinking according to your standards.

      No tolerance Mr. President and in extreme regard to what you want kindergartens and boys to learn.

      No thank you, Mr. President. Ignoring, complicating, expensing or interfering in the will of the people is treason to American leadership and the dignity of a man!


    3. Pingback: Obama Back To School Speech is Missing School Choice | The Foundry … : PlanetTalk.net - Learn the truth , no more lies

    4. George Colgrove, VA says:

      All schools should be privatized. I still agree with Benjamin Franklin, that schooling should be publically funded, but that does not mean the school is a public entity. Towns can still collect school taxes to provide a maximum voucher amount to all children. Parents will then use the open market to choose the school their kids will go. Schools can charge more than the voucher, but that will have to come from the parent.

      To transfer to the private system each town will assign stock shares of the local school system to each town member, making them a direct owner of the school. The school board will be replaced with a board of trustees. This is mostly semantics because much will be run as it is now. However, when the school pays its first dividend that will wake many up in the town. There should be a period where there is a freeze on the sale of school stock. After the school has achieved "value" then a school stock market can be formed where people can buy or sell their shares. I think there needs to be restrictions on how much of the market share one company can have in any particular area. We do not want the public monopoly be replaced by a corporate monopoly as both hurt the economy. The point is to make these schools compete for students.

      If this is implemented, it will not matter if a government decides for us what alternatives there will be for education. The market will decide. It is offensive that we need to look to some buffoon in the white house or some body of self-righteous federal employees – regardless of the party they belong to – to get guidance on alternatives. We can decide that for ourselves. If we want a school to send Johnny to that focuses on the environment, then we will find a school backed by or even owned by the Sierra Club. If we want Johnny to be skilled in business, then we may want to send him to a school with financial backing by IBM. If Johnny excels at fixing things, then the Votech school owned by a trade organization may be a great place to send him. The possibilities would become endless, because we the people are in control, not some loft federal agency.

      Government is failing all over the world and especially in the US. When looking for "alternatives" we need to be looking into a post-government era. We need to look into putting the people back in charge of their lives. No more promises, just get it done.

    5. Mary Slider, Mariett says:

      George Colgrove is a darn good, one-man "think tank". He's got my vote.

    6. Brian Wilson says:

      If they succeed, the administration will have orchestrated a significant federal overreach into what is taught in local schools. They will have done so without a single vote in Congress, bypassing normal legislative procedure, and without input from parents and taxpayers.

      Notice a pattern here? Bypassing normal legislative procedure. WAKE UP AMERICA!!

    7. Jeanne Stotler, Wood says:

      I attended Parochial schools in Va. and D.C. for the first 13 yrs. I then went to Public HS and later to GU. At this time states ran the schools and there was a large difference between some states, Penna. and NY had the highest rated and southern states were at the bottom, Ala, Va. were among them. I am glad to see schools improve, as they had to with so many moving around more, but I still think states should be the ones running the schools and Fed.Gov't. out of it. Every thing that Washington gets into goes in the cra_______r, and this administration is rushing it along. My grandsons just finished HS and they tell me that most stuff is boring and no one seems to be interested in making learning interesting for them and fit for their futures.

    8. Joe Springfield, VA says:

      It would be interesting to see the lesson plans to determine if the plans espouse left wing, liberal and progressive propaganda.

    9. John Clancy, Wyandot says:

      The reach of the federal government into education by bribing the states must be resisted if we are to resist socialism.

      For bureaucrats in Washington to tell a teacher in some towm in Wyoming what to do makes no sense, especially in a country that is built on principles of freedom and subsidiarity. Parents are the primary educators in time and in influence.

      What we need now is a radically new direction that moves us from a monolithic system controlled by the government and the unions to a system that promots freedom of choice and the right of parents to determime the direction as suggested by George Colgrove above.

      Support the YOUNG GUNS IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY to transform the critical area of education. This transformation is a pressing need if we are to remain a free nation.

    10. David Kearney, York, says:

      I believe that most conservatives are completely missing the point. Every american does have school choice. If they can afford a private school, then they have the opportunity to attend a private school. If they want a better public school, then move to a better school district. I sent my children to a catholic school even in years when I could not afford it. I never expected a government tax deduction and no one else should either. If you cannot afford something, then you do without. That is the conservative philosophy.

    11. John Clancy says:

      The reach of the federal government into education by bribing states with tax dollars must be resisted.

      For some bureaucrat in Washington to tell a 3rd grade teacher in Wyomiing what to do makes no sense, especially in a country that is built on the principles of freedom and subsidiarity.

      What we need now is a radically new direction that moves from a monolithic system controlled by the government and the unions to a system of choice in which parents determine the direction of their children, as George Colgrove suggests above.

      Support the Young Guns in the Republican Party to begin a transformation of this critical area.

    12. George Colgrove, VA says:

      David Kearney, York, PA on September 14th, 2010 at 5:30pm said:

      "I believe that most conservatives are completely missing the point. Every american does have school choice. . . . . If you cannot afford something, then you do without. That is the conservative philosophy."

      The thing is, the government has artificially messed with the competative nature of school choice. If I want to pay to have my kids go to a private school, I also have to pay the same amount in taxes if I sent them to a public school. So in essence I have to pay for two schools, one that my kids go to and the public school they wont be going to. Conservatism is having the ability to choose a school and pay for one. They system we have right now IS LIBERALISM. Sure I can chose to send my kid to a alternative school, but the public school system is still getting my money. What incentive do thay have to improve themselves if they know they will get my money anyway? My money should only go to the school of my choice.

      Try feeling this out. What if that Catholic school you sent your kids to got money from all town members even though most sent their kids to the public school? Feels bad – huh! What if Ford got $18,000 from you at the same time you paid $18,000 for your Toyota? Again you feel bad – right? Well that is what happens when we pay school taxes for schools we don't want our kids to even look at.

      The thing is, if I did not have to pay school taxes, I could afford to have my kids go to any school I wanted them to.

    13. Jim Kelly says:

      If you want to see the power of school choice and educational freedom for parents, view the new Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program at


    14. Keith, California says:

      Thanks goodness I'm retired from teaching. After the Department of Education was created, we had more and more "interference" from the feds. Education became worse, but we did increase the cutting of trees. After all, the increased paper for nonsensical "paperwork" had to come from somewhere!

      Social engineering and poor textbooks (history) have ruined public education.

      One more thought, be wary of "test scores". They can be "manipulated" simply by making tests "easier". I saw that happen over thirty years ago.

    15. Ted Reynolds, Cincin says:

      Kearney, YOU are completely missing the point. Either that, or you are being knowingly disingenuous in your claim of being consistent with a 'conservative' philosophy.

      We DON'T have a choice when it comes to paying the taxes that go to supporting the leftist political indoctrination camps known as public schools, and you know it. And moving to a different school district is fine if all you want is to put your kid in a different indoctrination camp, but if not, you're still stuck paying tribute to the public school teacher's unions in the form of said taxes.

      The REAL conservative philosophy would give parents of ALL income levels the choice of which school their children would attend by giving them the choice to which school they would send their dollars–without forcing them to pay for the public school option even if their children attend a private school.

    16. waynne wilson,salina says:

      the point in alternate school is for a better education.sure people can pay for privet school, but if we decide to do so why should we still have to pay for other people to go to the gov. school. the people that send there kid's to private school or being being punished by having to pay for public school.

    17. Michael Harbman says:

      This is an outrage! My wife is a school teacher in the Twin Rivers School District where they don't have the money to have the janitors vacuum or clean the rooms. My wife vacuums and the kids help clean the rooms now but they can be forced to adopt new standards which will require training and new material. And the tactic used to help schools with additional funding to replace the money stolen from them to begin with is pure mob tactics– but what do you expect from a Chicago politician.

      And where in our Constitution does it empower the federal government to get involved in this space to begin with Mr. President?

    18. David Kearney says:

      Reynolds, let me educate you. The issue here is not paying taxes. It is school choice. Obviously you and others who disagree with me have a big problem paying school taxes into an educational system that you dislike as well as teachers unions which you despise. But that is a completely different issue.

      The issue here is SCHOOL CHOICE. Not the ability to pay for it.

      By the way, maybe parents of ALL income levels should be able to afford a porche!

    19. George Colgrove, VA says:

      David Kearney on September 14th, 2010 at 5:30pm said:

      "The issue here is not paying taxes. It is school choice."

      Paying school taxes for nearly all americans means NO SCHOOL CHOICE.

      You take $4 to $5 thousand out of a household, that household could never think about choosing another school. Then take it to the next level. People who are under water due to federal policies since 2007 cannot aford to sell their house to get to a better district. Again the choice is removed.

      Rather, if you collected taxes to put into a pool, then gave each school aged child a voucher for which the parent can use to send their child to any school they desired, is school choice. This makes school competitive.

      David, your argument assumes that we all must pay school taxes to a building as if it were an axium. That is wrong morally and kills any inovation competition could bring and profit could inspire. The means to which taxes are distibuted is at the root of the debate. A public school should never be the presumptive recipient of these taxes. It should fight tooth and nail for it as so with any other school alternative. This is THE ONLY WAY excelence can be gained. Otherwise we will be stuck with the federal system that is failing us more each year we keep it alive.

    20. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      This Race To The Bottom reminds me of the way the Federal Government created Thought Crime into Traffic Law. Only then it was Federal Highway Funds, and many States held out for Prima Facie Speed Limits but were punished. Federal control of Education will mirror that corruption of Education that has come from the Progressive academics (erase all our Freedom History). You can tell what Progressives will do by what they have done in the past. So it will be more Social Conditioning and less Education, only this time it will be permanent. Across this great land of ours you don't need any damage done (accidents, injury nor property damage, nor even the slightest possibility of damages) to be guilty of a Traffic Law Thought Crime, "We think up statistical damages" not that you actually did anything.

      Progressives know this trick very well. Clear to me that Obamajucation is really intended to mold good proletariots, socialized, quiet, harmless little citizens who can be fooled all of the time. Educing anything is strictly forbidden, so you really can't call it Education. What? Conditioning. "You will be happy with nothing! You will be happy with nothing!" See how easy it is? Oh happy, happy day. Ignorance is bliss, and Obama means it, literally.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.