"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Spellings Clings to D.C. Voucher Program Despite ED Study Showing No Benefit

A Congressionally-mandated study by ED's own research shop shows no advantage to the D. C. voucher program over the public schools. And in a move that has come to symbolize the Bush/Spellings position on everything from global warming to food safety to education, "scientifically-based" research is only useful when it can be used to prop up ideologically-based policies chosen for the political/financial support they garner. So despite the evidence, Spellings continues to insist on more money for vouchers in D.C. and elsewhere. From WaPo:

By Maria Glod and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 17, 2008; B06

Students in the D.C. school voucher program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, generally did no better on reading and math tests after two years than public school peers, a U.S. Education Department report said yesterday.

The report comes at a politically perilous moment for the program. Congressional Democrats, led by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, want to phase it out, arguing that it drains money and other resources from public schools. Most scholarship recipients have enrolled in Catholic and other faith-based private schools.

Voucher supporters assert that Democrats, who now control Congress, should not deny poor families the kind of choices available to the well-to-do to satisfy such anti-voucher interest groups as teachers unions.

This afternoon, a House Appropriations subcommittee will consider President Bush's request for $18 million to continue the program.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings renewed her call yesterday to preserve the program, stressing that it has shown promising achievement trends. Researchers found gains in reading among some groups of scholarship recipients, although they said the bump could be due to statistical chance.

"No one in a position of responsibility can sever this lifeline right now and leave these kids adrift in schools that are not measuring up -- not when they have chosen to create a better future for themselves," Spellings said. . . .
If we could ignore the influence of poverty on these children's lives, which Spellings has no problem at all doing, there remains the question of how much a good private school education costs in D.C. Fifteen, twenty, thirty thousand a year? Or is $7,500 a year enough for the poor to "choose a better future?"

The findings mirror those in previous studies of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed by a Republican-led Congress in 2004 to place the District at the leading edge of the private school choice movement. It has awarded scholarships to 1,903 children from low-income families, granting up to $7,500 a year for tuition and other fees at participating schools.

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