President-elect Obama and his wife Michelle came to town and did what people with young children usually do before moving. They looked at their new house and then Mrs. Obama checked out the school choices for their two young daughters.
The schools Mrs. Obama visited were private, not public. While no decision has yet been made, it seems obvious the girls enjoy their private school in Chicago and have flourished in it. Would the Obamas, in order to pander to the teachers unions, place their daughters in one of Washington, D.C.'s miserable public schools? Let's hope not. That would be a form of intellectual and social child abuse.
Should they choose either Sidwell Friends School (where Chelsea Clinton attended) or Georgetown Day School -- Mrs. Obama visited both -- or a public school, the Obamas have the ability to make a choice for their children, a choice the president-elect would deny to every other American who cannot afford to pay private school tuition. This is not the vaunted fairness for which Obama campaigned. This is not spreading the educational and intellectual wealth around.
During the campaign, Obama praised D.C. school superintendent Michelle Rhee for her commendable attempts to improve the Washington public school system, but the schools still have a long way to go and continue to underperform the rest of the country. Surely the Obamas care more about their daughters than the teachers unions and will place them in private schools.
Parents who put their children first are to be admired and emulated. Politicians who are parents and who have the power to let others make the choices they can make, but refuse to do so, are inconsistent at best and hypocrites at worst.
Throughout the campaign, Barack Obama presented himself as a champion of the poor and middle class. Poor and middle-class parents do not love their children any less than the Obamas love their daughters. They want their kids to have a good education, realizing it is their ticket to a better life. But liberal politicians deny them that right. Is that fair?
This year, 1,900 D.C. schoolchildren were allowed to attend private schools, thanks to congressional vouchers. With Democrats about to be in charge of all three branches of government, will Obama and his fellow Democrats send them back to failed schools? D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has suggested as much. Parents interviewed by Washington TV stations overwhelmingly want their children to remain where they are. Is it not cruel to force them back into a broken system?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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