Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues that we have an obligation to disregard politics to do whatever is "good for the kids."
Well then, one wonders, why did his Department of Education bury a politically inconvenient study regarding education reform? And why, now that the evidence is public, does the administration continue to ignore it and allow reform to be killed?
When Congress effectively shut down the Washington, D.C., voucher program last month, snatching $7,500 Opportunity Scholarship vouchers from disadvantaged kids, it failed to conduct substantive debate (as is rapidly becoming tradition).
Then The Wall Street Journal's editorial board reported that the Department of Education had buried a study that illustrated unquestionable and pervasive improvement among kids who won vouchers, compared with the kids who didn't. The Department of Education not only disregarded the report but also issued a gag order on any discussion about it.
Is this what Duncan meant by following the evidence?
When I had the chance to ask Duncan -- at a meeting of The Denver Post's editorial board Tuesday -- whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal "no." He then called the WSJ editorial "fundamentally dishonest" and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him -- despite the newspaper's contention that it did, repeatedly.
When I called The Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different -- that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing -- story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups at his office.
The voucher study, which showed progress compounding yearly, had been around since November, and its existence is mandated by law . So at best, Duncan was willfully ignorant.
But the most "fundamentally dishonest" aspect of the affair was Duncan's feeble argument against the program.
First, he strongly intimated that because only 1 percent of children were able to "escape" (and boy, that's some admission) from D.C. public schools through this program, it was not worth saving.
So, you may ask, why not allow the 1 percent to turn into 2 percent or 10 percent instead of scrapping the program? After all, only moments later, Duncan claimed that there was no magic reform bullet and that it would take a multitude of innovations to fix education.
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