Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Will Malia And Sasha Obama Go To School?

The Obama kids will soon be going to a new school.

Unless their parents are rich, they will have to go to the Washington D.C. public schools, which are among the worst-performing in the nation.

Fortunately, the Obamas are very rich. Barack has written multiple best-sellers and Michelle made $121,000 as V.P. Of External Affairs at a hospital. As soon as Barack was elected senator, Michelle's salary was re-evaluated, re-assessed, reconfigured, deemed totally inadequate for a person of her obvious skills, and bumped up to $316,000. (It had nothing to do with Barack winning a Senate seat.)

But I digress. The Obama children currently attend a private school in Chicago.

Jimmy Carter was the last president to put an actual living, breathing child into the Washington D.C. public schools. Bill and Hillary announced early on that Chelsea would be attending the Sidwell Friends School, and were denounced in some quarters for not following Jimmy's lead in supporting the local public school system. Here's an excerpt from a 1992 article in the Washington Monthly:
The Gores send their children to private school. So do the Quayles. So does Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. In fact, none of the 67 top education policymakers in the Bush (Sr.) administration sends his or her kids to D.C. public schools. Instead, the Clintons will be hearing well-deserved praise of the academics at the National Cathedral School, of the sincere service ethics of Quaker philosophy at Sidwell Friends School, of the respect for individualism at Georgetown Day School, among others.
Nobody held this private school decision against the Clintons for very long, since Carter sending his daughter to the public schools was considered the act of a madman.
But we're paying for these schools, aren't we?
The question is, why?
And if the overwhelming majority of high ranking Washingtonians in government have abandoned the public schools, why not privatize all of them, give D.C. residents a voucher (for about half of what the schools currently cost per pupil) and end the charade?

Here's the Washington Post on the cost per pupil in the D.C. schools....We're often told that public schools are underfunded. In the District, the spending figure cited most commonly is $8,322 per child, but total spending is close to $25,000 per child -- on par with tuition at Sidwell Friends, the private school Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990s.

$25,000 per child. Texas Freakin' A&M doesn't cost that much for tuition, room, board, other food, books, snacks, fees, parking, and tickets to football games to watch the Aggies lose.

Here's Nick Gillespie at Reason magazine, generally the source of all things good and holy:

Mother Jones has a letter from a Washington, D.C. resident pleading with President-Elect Barack Obama that he "seriously consider sending your kids to DC public schools—and not a charter school, either, but a full-on traditional neighborhood public school."

Stephanie Mencimer notes in passing (and with strange forgiveness) that Obama's kids attend private school in Chicago, and she grants that D.C.'s public schools are "crappy" and complains about lack of resources without mentioning that the schools spend more money per pupil than just about anywhere else in the country. "I understand," she writes, "that choosing a school is fraught with anxiety and it's the most private of decisions."

In an update, she says:
At Barack Obama's first press conference as president-elect, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet asked whether Obama would be sending his children to private or public schools in Washington. He replied that no decision has yet been made and that he and Michelle would be "scouting out schools."

More here. Which is another way of saying, Hello Sidwell Friends! or one of the other ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive D.C.-area private schools.

Which is to say that Obama (as he has already demonstrated via his own kids) is in favor of school choice, at least when it comes to his family (he has said a variety of phoney-baloney platitudes about not "walking away" from public schools and creating more charters, etc.)

With that in mind, and as a parent with two kids in public schools, I'd like to write a letter to Obama too:

I understand that choosing a school is fraught with anxiety and it's the most private of decisions. Please extend and expand the same educational choice you and your family exercise with ease by giving school-age children more and better options. Making every school voluntary by giving vouchers equal to the current average spending per pupil that can be cashed at any educational institution you would be willing to send your own kids to.

This is, of course, not going to happen. Indeed, look for the Obama administration to follow in the footsteps of the Bush administration and further centralize and federalize control of the K-12 system. In fact, Obama has spoken repeatedly about the need for universal, taxpayer-funded preschool, which will have the added bonus of straitjacketing a thriving and decentralized and choice-driven industry.

I'm incredibly conflicted on this subject. Many hardcore Libertarians believe that there's no legit reason for the government to be involved in education. The less extreme view calls for government issued vouchers that could be used at whatever school the parents choose. I know a lot of public school teachers, and they all, without exception, agree that the administrative costs of their schools are ridiculous.

On the other hand, having grown up in a private (segregationist) academy, I took a lot of pride in finally getting my daughter into a Fort Worth public school. Sending her to the local public school on Fort Worth's East Side was out of the question, though. That place is a Gladiator Training facility. Some strings got pulled, and she went to the public school near TCU.

On the other hand, when she came home from school each day, I asked her what she had learned. The answer was invariably "Nothing. We sat through this period, watched a movie in this class, hung out in the gym during this class, and I worked Sudoku's during this class." Or words to that effect.

On the other hand, she made a lot of minority friends.

On the other hand, diversity is not the point of an education, no matter what those people say who send their kids to Sidwell Friends in D.C.

On the other hand, I got to enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling of righteousness. Perhaps this deluded feeling is what left-wingers experience all the time.

Anyway, Clarence Page has a great editorial about the Obama education options, and he's much calmer than I am. Mr. Page wrote the best of the bunch. Please try to read it.
Here's Bob Parks at Black And Right.
Here's a brief excerpt from Investor's Business Daily: He (Obama) recently told an interviewer that he opposes school choice because "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom."
Not being left behind are Obama's daughters, who attend the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. There, tuition ranges from $15,528 for kindergarten to $20,445 for high school. When asked about it during last year's YouTube debate, Sen. Obama responded that it was "the best option" for his children. They had a choice Obama would deny others.


TarrantLibertyGuy said...

A while back I was doing a bit of research and found that the DISD had a drop out rate of 45% - Oh wait, that's the GRADUATION RATE! Yes, the drop out rate was 65%!! They spend approximately $11K per student to achieve this. If only they could spend more money - then the results would go up and there would never be a child left behind. RIGHT?

Within the city limits of Dallas (I believe in the Kessler Park area), there is a private school that has a tuition of $11K. That is, they also spend about $11K and their dropout rate is 0%. And of the graduates that make up that 100%, 100% go to college. A large majority of those students will receive aid and scholarships - - so, not a bunch of rich kids of influential parents.

So, what's the deal? I believe it's this: If the private school's small administration and teachers fail, then people send their kids elsewhere and their jobs go away. If the DISD teachers and their army of administrators fail then... they get, er a 4% COLA raise.

fembuttx said...

Everyone deserves a choice. I am a Methodist who wanted to instill strong biblical beliefs into my young son..I sent him to a Baptist private school. As it turns out, the teachers could quote scripture very well. He would come home and tell me that I was going to hell for drinking my Rolling Rock.

But, they could not teach with a damn. NOw he is in public school with all of the little heathens that I tried to keep him from. He is learning, which is good. But he gets bullied more. Next is Baptist Karate classes. He will be able to kick their asses and tell them to go to hell scripturally. (I just made up a word). Which by the way, is what the Baptists do best....Go to hell fire and brimstone!! Heathen bastards!!

Tim Lebsack said...

AP - As a fellow libertarian, I'm shocked that you would use your blog to take cheap verbal assaults at TAMU football. Those guys are amateur student/athletes using sport as a method of acquiring an education. The fact that they have nicer room and board facilities separating them from the intramural student/athletes is only a tool created to allow the football players easier access to the state of art training facilities A&M is so proud of. Intramural athletes have no use for such technology. Also, I disagree with your use of the term 'Gladiator Training Facility'. The government schools I attended did not turn me into a gladiator. Gladiators are specimens of the most practiced motor skill and mental fortitude. I left government schools a weepy, broken down, shell of a man child - extremely introverted, barely able to speak in the presence of others. A little toughening up at a righteous government run Gladiator Facility might have been just what this kid needed to function in our coercive dog eat dog, carnivores prevail world.