George Will

Not content with seeing the program set to die after the 2009-10 school year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (former head of Chicago's school system, which never enrolled an Obama child) gratuitously dashed even the limited hopes of another 200 children and their parents. Duncan, who has sensibly chosen to live with his wife and two children in Virginia rather than the District, rescinded the scholarships already awarded to those children for the final year of the program, beginning in September. He was, you understand, thinking only of the children and their parents: He would spare them the turmoil of being forced by, well, Duncan and other Democrats to return to terrible public schools after a tantalizing one-year taste of something better. Call that compassionate liberalism.

After Congress debated the program, the Department of Education released -- on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery -- a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District's program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation's report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.

The Senate voted 58-39 to kill the program. Heritage reports that if the senators who have exercised their ability to choose private schools had voted to continue the program that allows less-privileged parents to make that choice for their children, the program would have been preserved.

As the president and his party's legislators are forcing minority children back into public schools, the doors of which would never be darkened by the president's or legislators' children, remember this: We have seen a version of this shabby act before. One reason conservatism came to power in the 1980s was that in the 1970s liberals advertised their hypocrisy by supporting forced busing of other people's children to schools the liberals' children did not attend.

This issue will be back. In a few months, the appropriation bill for the District will come to the floor of the House of Representatives, at which point there will be a furious fight for the children's interests. Then we will learn whether the president and his congressional allies are capable of embarrassment. On the evidence so far, they are not.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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