President Obama was asked recently about “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” the Davis Guggenheim documentary about public education which depicts a handful of qualified inner-city students competing for a limited number of spaces in charter schools.
“Oh, it’s heartbreaking,” the president replied. “And when you see these parents in the film you are reminded that … their stake in their kids, their wanting desperately to make sure their kids are able to succeed, is so powerful…. It’s obviously difficult to watch to see these kids who know that this school’s going to give them a better chance–and that should depend on the bounce of a ball.”
Difficult—and instructive, too. The president’s heartbreak about the plight of deserving students denied a chance to attend charter schools might have been more persuasive if his administration, at the behest of the local teachers’ union, had not arbitrarily eliminated funding last year for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which provided vouchers to poor, mostly black, children in the nation’s capital for private-school tuition.
Some 216 students had been promised vouchers for the coming year under the program, and the Obama White House—in the midst of distributing literally hundreds of billions of dollars in ’stimulus’ funds—summarily cut them off. That was the same year, of course, when the president and Mrs. Obama decided against enrolling their two daughters in the Washington public schools, sending them instead to the Sidwell Friends School (tuition: $32,000 a year).