D.C. Schools: National Political Punching Bag!
LL was sitting watching the third presidential debate tonight, drinking a brew or two, chilling out for the evening, pondering the tax liability of one "Bob the Plumber." And then those dimwits had to go talking about the D.C. schools, meaning LL had to get on the friggin' blog!
LL wasn't taking notes and no transcript is available yet, but the D.C. schools were first brought up by Sen. John McCain with regard to vouchers. McCain was critical of the fact that Sen. Barack Obama didn't stand up to preserve the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the fancy name for the voucher initiative. Later, Obama returned to the D.C. schools, mentioning Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee's efforts (not by name) to enact aggressive reforms with the D.C. Public Schools, also mentioning their support for charter schools. Then, as moderator Bob Schieffer tried to move to another question, McCain mentioned that they also support vouchers.
Where has the intersection between national politics and the D.C. schools been located in the past? For one thing, Rhee has said more than once that she prefers McCain's education plan for leaving in place the stringent accountability standards of No Child Left Behind. Of course, tonight, Obama, too, offered a roundabout endorsement of the program, mentioning how "they left the money behind," too. If there's any loser tonight, it's teachers unions, which both McCain and Obama mentioned in less than glowing terms—Obama going so far as to mention his support for charter schools as an example of him bucking his own party.
What's the truth on Fenty, Rhee, charters, and vouchers?
Well, Fenty, as a councilmember, had been critical of the original voucher deal, saying the city had "sold out cheap" to congressional Republicans. More recently, when it became clear that a Democratic Congress, at the behest of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, was content to let vouchers die, he essentially punted, not commenting to the Post at first.
He later expressed support for keeping the vouchers. An August Washington Post editorial said that Fenty "supports [the voucher program] now, and he needs to clearly explain his change of heart."
Fenty has been a supporter of charters, no doubt. As for Rhee, she, too, has been a strong supporter of charter schools as a way to provide urban kids with a quality public education. LL is not aware of her stance on vouchers, but he was sure to bother Rhee spokesperson Dena Iverson for an opinion on the matter as soon as the candidates started flapping their lips. He awaits an answer!
UPDATE, 12:05 A.M.: Still no word form Fentyrheeland, but check this quote Rhee gave to the Wall Street Journal last December: "I would never, as long as I am in this role, do anything to limit another parent's ability to make a choice for their child. Ever."
UPDATE, 1 A.M.: The official Rhee statement is out: "While Chancellor Rhee hasn’t taken a formal position on vouchers, she disagrees with the notion that vouchers are the remedy for repairing the city’s school system."