Donate to JWR

Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 2008 / 11 Kislev 5769

How Obama can fix education

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If money were the key to great education, Sasha and Malia Obama might be getting ready to transfer next month to the Francis-Stevens Education Center, the Washington, D.C., public school assigned to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., which will be the girls' new address as of Jan. 20.


The District of Columbia, after all, boasts one of the most amply funded school systems in America. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the DC public schools spend about $13,700 per pupil. That is a level of funding more lavish than in 48 states and half again as generous as the national per-pupil expenditure of $9,150.


But bigger budgets, alas, don't guarantee educational excellence. Its abundant spending notwithstanding, DC's public school system ranks among the worst in the nation.


"In reading and math, the District's public school students score at the bottom among 11 major city school systems, even when poor children are compared only with other poor children," The Washington Post reported last year. According to the authoritative National Assessment of Education Progress, only one in seven fourth-graders is ranked at grade-level ("proficient") or better in reading and math. Among eighth-graders, only one in eight is proficient in reading; only one in 12 can handle eighth-grade math.


So to no one's surprise, the Obama girls will not be attending public school in Washington. Barack and Michelle Obama have decided to enroll their daughters in Sidwell Friends, the same private school that Chelsea Clinton attended when she was First Daughter.


The president-elect has taken a bit of heat for rejecting public education for Sasha and Malia. Critics point out that Obama cast himself as a staunch supporter of public schools during the presidential campaign. "We need to fix and improve our public schools," he told the NAACP convention in July, "not throw our hands up and walk away from them." When Time magazine asked the candidates whether parents should be given vouchers to enable them to send their children to better schools, his reply was adamant: "No. I believe that public education in America should foster innovation and provide students with varied, high-quality learning opportunities."


Now in fairness to the Obamas, an ideological commitment to public schools hardly obliges them to send their kids to one - especially when the local school system is as wretched as Washington, D.C.'s. The Obamas' first and deepest responsibility is to their daughters; to have enrolled the girls in the District's failing public system just to make a political point would have been appallingly irresponsible.


But in fairness to the critics, why doesn't Obama want other parents - poorer parents - to be able to do better by their children too? Candidates have been promising to "fix and improve our public schools" for decades, and for decades the schools have remained stubbornly mediocre, hefty spending increases notwithstanding. More promises won't do anything for the parents whose kids are stuck in the public schools Sasha and Malia will be spared. Vouchers, on the other hand, would.


Not every school can be a Sidwell Friends, but every school ought to have something Sidwell Friends benefits from every day. Money isn't the root of Sidwell Friends' success. Neither is the size of its classes, or its well-appointed facilities, or its loyal alumni. Sidwell Friends thrives because it has competition - and DC's public schools stagnate because they don't. Public education is essentially a monopoly, and monopolies tend to be costly, unimaginative, and indifferent to their customers' needs. Private and parochial schools, by contrast, cannot succeed if they lose the goodwill and confidence of the parents who choose them to educate their children.


The DC school system spends $13,700 per student, and most of those students can't even read or do simple math. Imagine what would happen if that money were channeled to parents instead, through vouchers that would let them freely choose their kids' schools. Imagine the energy, innovation, and diversity such competition would beget. Imagine the accountability and excellence it would lead to. Imagine the improvement in the lives of Washington's children. Imagine - 54 years after Brown v. Board of Education - achieving educational equality at last.


Public education doesn't have to be a lethargic and mediocre monopoly. Let vouchers stimulate competition, and education would be revolutionized. If that isn't change worth believing in, Mr. Obama, what is?

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles