- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Shame, shame, shame.

Shame on President Obama for turning underprivileged children into pawns — again — and during an election year, no less, as he stands on the cusp of history — again.

In what could be his final State of the Union address on Jan. 24, Mr. Obama seemingly spoke frankly about his concern about the need to raise the dropout age to 18 and urged states to do so, sans federal intervention.

A salute was in order at the time.

But guess what?

Quicker than you could say states’ prerogative, Mr. Obama yanked the rug beneath kids and parents in D.C. by proposing in his new $3.8 trillion budget that absolutely no new money be allocated for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the voucher program for poor families that was restored in 2010 and, we thought, with his blessings.

Now I don’t know about you, but my conservative parents told me never to trust anyone who giveth with one hand and taketh with the other.

What the president did this Black History Month brings to mind two other historical Democratic givers-and-takers, then-Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus and then-Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, poster boys for the separate-but-equal doctrine.

They passionately argued that blacks should indeed have public schools, but not at the expense of white kids and certainly not to attend classes in the same schoolhouse.

Fighting those views was a long and arduous slog for the racially, religiously and politically diverse NAACP, whose arch of triumph against school segregation came in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which ordered Faubus, Wallace and other like-minded Southern strategists to sit down, shut down and desegregate schools.

Those views were also the views of the Democratic Party, whose members were sometimes Blue Dogs, sometimes Yellow Dogs, all barking at race-mixing.

Now along comes Mr. Obama, a Democrat once removed from those days, blocking schoolhouse doors and telling kids and their mommas and their daddies and their grandparents that their poor children do not deserve to attend whichever school they want to attend.

This is deeply troubling because, when it comes to school choice, Democrats such as Mr. Obama talk an awful lot about school reform and putting children first, but they play a partisan hand.

Birmingham, Ala., the old stomping grounds of Wallace, is another perfect illustration.

It’s where fake education reformers are calling on the Birmingham Broad of Education to pass a resolution opposing the establishment of charter schools — charter schools mind you, not vouchers.

Among the most vocal opponents of charters? The city’s NAACP chapter.

Among the most vocal political opponents? Democrats.

Their No. 1 argument? Charter schools would take money away from traditional schools.

Sound familiar?

A man named Richard Franklin, president of the Birmingham’s American Federation of Teachers chapter, went so far as to ask why supporters of charter schools even “care about our inner-city schoolchildren.”

What in the world is going on?

Have we learned nothing, people?

Has the president forgotten that signs that say “rich folks only” are just as innately bigoted as those that said “white folks only”?

Here’s a lesson in black history for Mr. Obama, one that left the good ol’ slave-state boys cringing every time it was uttered by a learned black Southerner and social reformer named Frederick Douglass.

“Agitate, agitate, agitate” was the rallying cry of Douglass.

That was then, when Republicans not Democrats, began erasing the slave states’ lines of demarcation.

Today, Republicans and supporters of school choice still get it, while Mr. Obama struggles to save his political hind in this fierce dog-eat-dog election year and stands at the threshold of making sure that history does not repeat itself.

Their position on public schooling is resolute: traditional schools, charter schools and vouchers.

In other words, “educate, educate, educate.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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