During his speech to Congress last month, President Obama spoke, not for the first time, about a school in South Carolina he had visited during the campaign. Obama noted that the paint in the classrooms was peeling and that a passing train disrupted class six times per day. Obama also introduced the assembled legislators to a student at the South Carolina school who had written a letter imploring the government to help fix her school.
The whole thing was a bit silly. One can learn as much in a room with peeling paint as in a room with a fresh coat. Even a train passing by every period should only have a slight impact on the amount of learning that occurs. In any event, what is the remedy – governmental re-routing of the trains? Thus, Obama’s invocation of his pet school served mainly to illustrate the usual liberal confusion about cause and effect.
But now the president has received another plea from young students, this one in the form of a videotaped letter. Among the authors are Paul, 11, and Sakeithia, 12. They urge the president, in the words of an Examiner editorial, to make sure their congressionally funded scholarships, which enable them to attend private schools of their parents’ choice in Washington, DC, “aren’t snatched away by congressional Democrats in hock to the public school teachers and administrators unions.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has gone on record in support of continuing the program (which costs $14 million per year), but it is not clear where his boss stands.
Young Paul tells the president that at the District of Columbia public schools he attended, “people screamed at the teacher, walked out of the school during classes, hurt me, and made fun of all my friends.” Sakeithia adds, “My old public school was not a very safe place. I saw a lot of things a child should not see.” Unlike peeling paint or an occasional train, learning actually is impaired when the teacher cannot maintain order and students must fear for their safety.
The 1,900 scholarship recipients also include Sarah and James Parker, who attend Sidwell Friends School with Obama’s daughters Malia and Sasha. Their mother has said the thought of her children returning to their old school “frightens” her. But the $410 billion omnibus spending bill now before Congress contains language that would bring the scholarships to an end. The Examiner explains that Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders “contrived a legislative sleight-of-hand in the omnibus bill to kill the program without having to go on record individually.”
The Examiner concludes that if the legislation is not fixed, Obama should veto it. After all, “if it were Malia and [S]asha whose futures were at risk, he surely would issue the veto in a heartbeat.”
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