- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

EDITORIAL:

Early indications are that, like many politicians, President-elect Barack Obama favors school choice - at least for his own children. In Chicago, Barack and Michelle Obama’s two daughters attend private school, not the Windy City’s violence-plagued public schools. And early indications are that the Obama family will do the same thing in Washington.

At his first post-election press conference, Mr. Obama was asked whether he would send his children to public schools in Washington. He said that no decision had been made, and that he and wife Michelle would be “scouting out schools.” Earlier this week, Mrs. Obama began doing precisely that, by visiting Georgetown Day School, where tuition would be about $27,400 a year for each of the Obama girls. She also visited Sidwell Friends, which Chelsea Clinton attended. Family friends say Mrs. Obama plans to scout out several other private schools.

The early political spin is that the Secret Service has recommended that the Obamas send their children to private schools for security reasons. That is undoubtedly true, but everyone understands that this is not the real reason why the Obamas would rather not send their children to Chicago or D.C. public schools. Both systems are plagued by violence and low achievement, despite the fact that Chicago spends more than $11,000 per child and the District more than $24,000 per year. The Obamas, like any good parents, quite sensibly want to keep their children as far away as possible from problems in these cities. The same is true of many public-school teachers, who are more likely to send their children to private schools than the public institutions they serve. According to a 2004 report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, more than 38 percent of public-school teachers in Chicago send their children to private schools, compared to less than 23 percent of the general public. In the District, just under 20 percent of the public send their children to private schools; more than one-quarter of public-school teachers send their children to private schools.

The question now is whether as president Mr. Obama will support school choice. Will he support renewal of the federally funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Opportunity Program, which provides up to $7,500 per child per year to attend private schools in the District? The program faces renewal early next year, and Mr. Obama has criticized vouchers. A number of private schools the Obamas are probably considering accept vouchers. If Mr. Obama opposes renewal of these scholarships, he will in effect be denying poor children the ability to exercise the very choice he makes for his own children.

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