President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has done its best to hurt kids and inner-city minorities around the country. By attacking school choice and state-level experimentation in public education, the DOJ is making sure another generation of American children falls behind.
In Wisconsin, for example, the DOJ is investigating the state’s school-choice reforms on the grounds school choice discriminates against children with disabilities. In Louisiana, where reformers have implemented some of the most promising educational changes in the country under Bobby Jindal’s leadership, the DOJ is playing the race card by saying the state’s voucher program encourages segregation.
And, closer to home, many districts in Alabama have been threatened with DOJ letters warning against public-to-public student transfers. If the DOJ meddling in state affairs weren’t enough to discourage educational reform, a judge in Alabama has taken a page from the Obama playbook by overturning the Alabama Accountability Act late last week. In so doing, the judge has denied thousands of children access to a better future.
Reformers in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Alabama are fighting back, of course, and many of the battles could break in the direction of freedom in the years to come. The real losers in the status quo’s war on educational reform–besides taxpayers–are the millions of kids who deserve better from our educational system.
Our national K-12 educational rankings have stayed about the same since 1970, but the rest of the world has enjoyed tremendous gains; in other words, we are nowhere near the top of most international rankings. And, when our high investment costs per pupil are added to the mix, and when the one million American kids dropping out per year are taken into account, the return on investments for Americans when it comes to our K-12 education are nowhere near what they could be.
Yet, rather than address these realities through sensible, local and state level reforms, President Obama and his DOJ have instead decided to reward education’s insiders by bullying states with popular Republican governors (i.e., Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana) and fresh ideas.
Our kids deserve better, and there’s a large body of evidence indicating that greater competition–competition between public schools, between public and privates, and through home schooling alternatives–and free choice in our schools is better for educational achievement, productivity, and cost.
That districts and states with greater competition and choice perform better across a number of different dimensions is not surprising to most of us because, after all, a government monopoly over anything–mail, motor vehicle tags and license renewals–tends to produce pretty bad outcomes for consumers. That politicians and legal experts at the DOJ continue to place politics with our kids above evidence, however, is disgusting and never ceases to amaze me.
And, in the way of concluding, here’s one more point about evidence (and disgusting legal tactics): In their attacks on Wisconsin and Louisiana, and in overturning the Alabama Accountability Act, the critics have tried to claim greater choice for kids is discriminatory and could have polarizing effects. Their argument and concern, while legitimate, is, of course, an attempt to trump the school choice proponents by saying they–the judges and DOJ lawyers–are the ones who really, really care about minorities and integration of students.
Their care and compassion is probably genuine. But, part of caring is to look at evidence. Out of more than a dozen statistical studies looking at school choice’s effect on segregation and civic values, not one study found a negative impact from school choice (i.e., higher segregation or a decline in civic values). While statistical studies can never prove school choice will lead to integration, one would hope studies based on actual experiments with school choice would be part of the conversation.
What has instead transpired in the education debate is polarization, obstructionism, and bias in favor of entrenched interests–teachers unions and education bureaucrats–over new ideas and data driven, local solutions. Lawmakers at the DOJ, Judge Reese here in Alabama, and President Obama himself, who once aspired to be “the Education President,” deserve an “F” for playing politics as usual and for failing to put our kids’ education first.