Change He Can’t Believe In

Steve Chapman writes how Barack Obama – the “candidate of change” – rejects school choice (as policy, though he doesn’t practice what he preaches), despite its success.

Obama is the staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly, and he’s allergic to anything that subverts it. …

You would think a leader who plans to liberate us from the partisan dogmas of the past would be open to this approach [school choice] – and in February, Obama indicated he was. “If there was any argument for vouchers, it was, ‘Let’s see if the experiment works,'” he said. “And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what’s best for the kids.”

But it didn’t last. After those comments drew attention, his campaign hastily reminded voters that “throughout his career, he has voted against voucher proposals” and that his education plan “does not include vouchers, in any shape or form.”

Too bad, because vouchers, though they have been tried only in a few places, have shown considerable promise.

… about the only thing Obama and his party offer is pouring more money into schools and teacher salaries. It’s an idea that sounds sensible not only to teachers and principals but to a lot of other Americans as well – mainly because most taxpayers don’t realize how much they are already spending.

A survey by William Howell of the University of Chicago and Martin West of Brown University found that 96 percent of Americans underestimate these expenditures, usually by a lot. On average, per-student outlays are more than twice what most people think, and teachers get $14,370 more per year than commonly assumed. Per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has soared in the last four decades with no visible payoff.

Vouchers are a different approach: Instead of enlarging the monopoly, stimulate competition by empowering low-income students and parents to go outside the public school system.