Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Spellings praises voucher grads

Reading this week's New Yorker, this statement in a review of one of my favorite plays (Three Sisters) struck me as particularly relevant to political debate:

Chekhov implies [that] none of us understand, let alone hear, others, particularly if those others truly are other.


How true. And how sad.

I'm trying ever harder these days to keep an open mind. But, as usual, it's not easy when you're passionate about an issue. So when I saw what Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was up to yesterday, I tried to see it from the other side.

Spellings spoke at the graduation ceremony of 200 students from the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a Rovian/Orwellian name that really means a federally funded voucher program. The students all would have gone to the much maligned DC public schools, but instead were provided with vouchers of up to $7500 to go to private schools

On the one hand, it's hard to fault the kids or the families for getting out. Any rational person would try to get their kids or themselves out of a school that is in decay (often literally, because the buildings are falling apart). And it's understandable that politicians and policy makers would want to give a few hundred kids a way out.

But still, it's unfortunate that the dedication and energy and focus given to the few kids who got out, couldn't be funneled into the whole system. It's great that those 200 graduated and will have opportunities, but what about the thousands that are -- no pun intended -- left behind? Private schools simply don't have the capacity for all of them. And I just don't see that competition, as Spellings suggested in her speech, is really going to make a difference.

It also appears that Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), want to expand the program even though it's only in the second year of a five-year pilot program. Can you say filibuster, boys and girls?

I'm interested in learning more about the DC voucher program. Anyone know of any great articles about it?

Meanwhile, I at least appreciate Secretary Spellings' sense of humor and excellent advice, delivered in her speech at the previously mentioned graduation ceremony:

You know, my own daughter Mary graduated from high school last month. I paid extra close attention to the speakers at her graduation so that I would know what to say to you today. I think I'm supposed to give you all some advice now. So here goes: Floss your teeth every day. I'm a devout flosser myself.


Me, too, Madame Secretary. Now there's something everyone could get behind: a federally funded Ed. Dept. initiative to get all kids flossing. Let's put aside our differences and come together to fight gum decay. Drop vouchers and get the Senate to pass that.

Where can I register my support?

1 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. Ris said...

Truly... if I believed then what I know to be true now... I would have greatly appreciated graduation advise that included "FLOSS DAILY!"

I'm not a big voucher fan, but I am my kids' biggest fan, and so I too would consider special programs (including vouchers) to get my kids out from under the DC public school debacle.

Or do what we did... move to an outlying suburb with terrific schools overall.

9:25 AM  

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