The scene: The Secret Service rolls away from the White House with first daughters Malia and Sasha in tow. The destination is Sidwell Friends School, which they have attended since Barack and first lady Michelle Obama moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (Hollywood-style liberties exercised.)
Sidwell is no ordinary D.C. school; it is a highly desirable institution — founded by Quakers, racially integrated since 1956 and one of the top private schools in the nation (academically and culturally). Sidwell is so prestigious, the Gores and the Clintons and the Nixons sent their children there.
The plot: President Obama, father of Sasha and Malia, plays cameo roles as both antagonist and protagonist. On the one hand, the plot dictates that he be a huge backer of public education. On the other, he does not support public funding for school vouchers for poor children.
The voice-over: As the opening credits begin rolling, we hear a few words about why the family will stay in D.C. after they leave the White House. (Note to script writers: We need something that cites the importance of school and teenagers.) The president mouths a simple refrain: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
And therein lies the hypocrisy.
A Senate panel voted 16-6 Tuesday to pass along Mr. Obama’s pick for education secretary, John King Jr., to the full Senate. It’s an election year, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has said he wants to move things along with all deliberate speed.
Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican and a member of the panel, voted against the nomination — and with good reason.
Hear him out: “I want to thank Dr. John King for his willingness to discuss important issues facing our nation’s education system throughout this process. Unfortunately, his lack of support for critical issues surrounding school choice, such as reauthorizing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, leave me unable to support his nomination.
“I am also concerned with his support for Common Core, signaling a willingness to exert more federal control over education. We must ensure that every child across this nation has access to a quality education. School choice provides that opportunity, and I sincerely hope that not just Dr. King, but the entire Obama Administration, will reconsider their opposition to this critical issue. … This week, the Mayor and [the majority of the] City Council of Washington, D.C., wrote to Congress expressing their support for the DC OSP program. The Obama Administration continues to oppose this critical program, which drastically increases graduation rates at a fraction of the cost of traditional D.C. public schools.”
The D.C. vouchers are part of a three-tiered approach — public funding for traditional schools, charter schools and vouchers. Mr. Obama has been rejecting the approach out of hand because he opposes vouchers.
Also on the federal level, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting Democratic representative in Congress, raises the roof every time she suspects other members of Congress — particularly Republicans, may be invading her turf. She most recently plucked a booger in February, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows introduced legislation that would place the burden to fund the voucher program squarely on the city’s coffers.
Such a move would create a political conundrum for Mrs. Norton, whose current re-election could face a backlash from wealthy and poor voters, as would city council members and the mayor. None of them wants a political black-eye for yanking those scholarships, and none of them wants to have to come up with the money either.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Norton wraps up this take of “The Privileged Democrats” as the closing credits roll with her voice-over: “I didn’t send my son to Sidwell. He attended a different private school because, like the president, I could afford it.
“But let me remind what my elite friend, Mr. Obama, said.
“He said, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’”
⦁ Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.