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  • Today Show Highlights President Obama’s Educational Choices

    This morning on the Today Show, host Matt Lauer sat down with President Obama to discuss his Administration’s policies on school reform. Toward the end of the interview, a viewer’s question on President Obama’s decision to send his children to private school spurred a discussion about school choice.

    Viewer: “As a father of two very delightful and seemingly very bright daughters, I wanted to know whether or not you think that Malia and Sasha would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school, as compared to their very elite private academy that they’re attending now?”

    Obama: “I’ll be blunt with you. The answer’s ‘no’ right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the years to move in the direction of reform; there are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system. And that’s true by the way in every city across the country. In my hometown of Chicago there are some great public schools that are on par with any private school in the country. But it goes to the point Matt and I were talking about earlier. A lot of times you’ve got to test in, or it’s a lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools and so those options are not available for enough children. I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”

    President Obama is absolutely right. Why, then, is his administration standing idly by as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) is being phased out?

    For the past six years, the DCOSP has been one of the only lifelines for poor families in the District to escape the public school system, where less than half of children graduate high school, only 11 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading, and one in eight students reports being threatened with a weapon on school grounds. Yet under President Obama’s watch, and at the behest of the powerful education unions, this option is being yanked from the hands of D.C. families.

    Earlier in the interview, Lauer asked the President about the new film Waiting for Superman and his reaction to seeing children’s educational futures being determined by a lottery. The President responds:

    It’s heartbreaking. And when you see these parents in the film, you are reminded that—I don’t care what people’s income levels are—their stake in their kids, they’re wanting desperately to make sure their kids are able to succeed, is so powerful, and it’s obviously difficult to watch to see these kids who know that this school is going to give them a better chance, that that should depend on the bounce of a ball.

    True enough. But last spring, 216 children in D.C. had scholarships rescinded by the Department of Education, in some cases just days after receiving notices that they would have the opportunity to escape the D.C. public school system and attend a private school of their choice. President Obama indeed chose a school that he thought would best meet the needs of his daughters—as was his right to do. But every parent should have that choice. And for the past six years, thousands of low-income parents in the nation’s capital have also had that choice. It’s shameful that politics is jeopardizing that option. If the President were really concerned with expanding educational options, he would fight for school choice to be not only preserved in the District but expanded to all families who desire a brighter educational future for their children.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Today Show Highlights President Obama’s Educational Choices

    1. Robert Morrison, Was says:

      Thanks for this excellent report. President Obama is not opposed to all education choice. Parents of children on the West Bank have the benefit of $900 million in U.S. aid to the P.L.O. There, they can send their children to schools named for suicide bombers. There, children are taught to wear dynamite stick vests and pose as "martyrs." This administration is subsidizing all of this through its lavish foreign aid to Mahmoud Abbas' PLO.

    2. Chris-Jupiter, FL says:

      I find it disgusting that President Obama has the nerve to to state that if teachers are not increasing test scores, they should be fired. As a middle school teacher, I see each student for 55 minutes every day. I can be the greatest teacher in the world, but what happens to that student after school dismisses is out of every single teacher's control.

      I cannot control parent participation in a child's education; I cannot control if they have breakfast, if they had a fight with their brothers/sisters/parents before coming to school, missing a bus, getting stuck in traffic, not feeling well, just to name a few.

      I would challenge any one that does not spend approximately 6 hours in a closed classroom with an average of 26 students in each class to make a difference when there is NO SUPPORT from home or when a teacher has no control over what happens in the other 23 hours in a day.

      President O'Bama can't even handle the Presidency on a 24 hour basis. I challenge him to be in a classroom, attend to every single need of every single student for 6 hours with only 4 minutes inbetween classes, do it without a raise, do it without a salary you can live on, do it with no respect by parents and school administrators, and do it when you can only control what is happening during that very small 55 minutes each day.

      How dare President O'Bama. I would gladly switch positions with him for a month and let's see how much he could raise test scores.

      President O'Bama speaks a good game but isn't willing to put money behind paying teachers what they deserve to be paid. Shame on him…I am embarassed to have him as a president because he doesn't understand, at all, what is going on.

    3. Susan Burke says:

      I am a teacher of 23 years and my students all pass the standardized tests. What about extemely negative administrators??? Teachers are told by the union that if they complain we could lose our retirement! I would never recommend that my children teach.This is very sad since so many children need good, loving teachers. We are an A school in spite of our working conditions,with very dedicated educators. President Obama -please help!

    4. Cobby Witherington, says:

      Thank you for focusing on education. Our country is definitely lagging behind the global community, and it worries me as a parent, and also as a taxpayer. Our family recently moved and changed from private to public education. We left behind a sense of entitlement. We are thrilled with the diversity our children have exposure to in public schools. We have deifinitely felt that public schools teach for the "test" . While this has helped one of our children improve her reading levels, our other child has lost focus on her creativity. From my perspective, teachers unions, particularly in Alabama, are holding us back. They cannot be blamed solely. Our schools are heavily dependent on taxes sourced from sales taxes, which have declined in recession and the aftermath of the oli spill. The biggest challenge facing our schools is what is not happening at school. Single parents, poor nutrition, teenage pregnancy, drugs/alcohol use among young people, poverty, abuse, lack of parental involvement on post-school learning, etc. Follow children after school and then see how the after school envrionment affects their school performance. It is not rocket science. We can pour all the money in the world into our schools but if there is no support system for these children, they will continue to fail. Someone needs to acknowledge the elephant in the room and address the core problems.

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