Part and parcel of a living in a free society is the ability to make choices. For example, at election time our citizenry is allowed to choose between various political candidates running for public office. In countries where there is no freedom, so called “elections” are a sham because there is no choice, the ballots have but one candidate.
Here in the United States there is an ongoing battle over choice in education. On the one side there are those who seek greater freedom of choice for parents. Among the choices currently offered to a greater or lesser degree in various parts of our country are home schooling, school vouchers, and charter schools. On the other side there are those who seek to reduce or eliminate a parents right to choose the way they want their children educated. These seek to make public school attendance mandatory for ALL children.
Each of the alternatives I have mentioned are different. Each has been promoted or discouraged to greater or lesser degree at various times and places but to a parent, taken as a whole they represent choice in education. Each time one of those options is eliminated somewhere it can be said that a parent’s right to make choices concerning the education of their children has been negatively affected.
I believe our current president is no friend of school choice for parents. I have several points to mention in support of this statement. First is the Washington DC. school voucher plan the Obama Administration ended. In case you are unfamiliar with the story read this article.
This is a direct assault on freedom of choice in education. It is an action taken by Arne Duncan, President Obama’s selection for Secretary of Education. It can and should be cited as a concrete example that our current president does not favor choice in education.
Which leads me to my second point, and one which was mentioned in the article I quoted above. I think one of the reasons Obama has and will continue to demonstrate resistance to choice in education is that both he and the Democratic party are financially beholden to teacher unions in a big way and will not oppose the wishes of those unions in the area of educational choice. From the above-cited article:
It’s clear, though, from how the destruction of the program is being orchestrated, that issues such as parents’ needs, student performance and program effectiveness don’t matter next to the political demands of teachers’ unions. Congressional Democrats who receive ample campaign contributions from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers laid the trap with budget language that placed the program on the block. And now comes Mr. Duncan with the sword. (emphasis mine)
It has been rightly said to get a true sense of what an organization supports one need only to follow the money. Just a cursory glance at the political contributions made by the NEA shows the virtual political alignment of that teacher’s union and the Democratic party. (read this article) And given the money spent by this union in support of an almost entirely Democratic slate is it unreasonable to assume our current president and Democrat-controlled congress will seek to do their bidding?
From the article cited in the previous paragraph let me point out the following quote:
There’s been a lot in the news recently about published opinion that parallels donor politics. Well, last year the NEA gave $45,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, which regularly issues reports that claim education is underfunded and teachers are underpaid. The partisans at People for the American Way got a $51,000 NEA contribution; PFAW happens to be vehemently anti-voucher.
The extent to which the NEA sends money to states for political agitation is also revealing. For example, Protect Our Public Schools, an anti-charter-school group backed by the NEA’s Washington state affiliate, received $500,000 toward its efforts to block school choice for underprivileged children.
So the NEA has contributed money to groups that are both anti-voucher and anti-charter schools. Given the Obama administrations stated support of charter schools elsewhere this can at best be considered a mixed message though I doubt anyone would think of it as a ringing endorsement of parental choice in education. ( I acknowledge the WSJ article is more than 3 years old, but does anyone want to make the claim that the NEA zebra has recently changed its stripes?)
Point three and potentially most pernicious is President Obama’s support of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. (See harmonicminers earlier blog on this subject) While not yet adopted by the US, the potential for elimination of parent choice in education is there if this is embraced by the current administration. (If you have any doubt about Obama’s willingness to accede to the demands of the United Nations, even at the cost of our sovereignty, read this article about his sponsorship of Senate bill 2433). Of note too is the author cited by harmonicminer. He is co-founder, chairman and general counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association. This organization did not come about because our government has a track record of embracing homeschooling (as an educational choice), and this current president has shown time and time again he favors greater governmental intrusion and control over almost everything. One might say it has the potential of a perfect storm, brewing on the horizon for parents who wish to exercise freedom of choice in the education of their children.