In his State of the Union speech, President Obama’s prescription for improving America’s ailing education system fell short both in its likely effectiveness and the consistency of his principles.
Obama sincerely wants to improve public education, but he can’t do it without a voucher program.
Calling his Race to the Top education-funding competition “the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation,” Mr. Obama highlighted the program’s requirement that states adopt national education standards crafted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Yet, the University of Arkansas education professor Sandra Stotsky, who was a member of the national standards validation committee, warns that “there is no direct relationship between high student achievement and having national standards” and that the new national standards are weak in key areas like middle-school math.
Mr. Obama also called for 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers. He cited India’s focus on math and science education, but failed to mention that much of India’s higher-performing education takes place not in the country’s dysfunctional public schools, but in its burgeoning private-school sector, which educates a third of all Indian children. Even more significant, under India’s Right to Education law, poor children receive publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools. When it comes to school choice, however, Mr. Obama is oddly inconsistent.
The president urged Congress to make permanent his college tuition tax credit, which gives students the financial ability to attend the public or private college of their choice. Mr. Obama, though, fails to apply this principle to K-12 education, despite the fact that a number of states have successful K-12 tuition tax credit programs. House Speaker John Boehner invited parents and students who benefited from the Washington school-choice voucher program, which Mr. Obama helped terminate, as his guests for the speech to underscore the president’s opposition to parental empowerment and to support the inaugural National School Choice Week.
President Obama sincerely wants drastic improvement in American public education, but his agenda won’t accomplish his goal soon, if ever, which will leave too many children trapped in bad schools with no quick exit ticket.