Monday, November 24, 2008

Choice for some

While many that didn’t vote for Mr. Obama are still bitter, and some seem intent on wishing that he fails, I don’t think his failure holds much promise for our country. In fact, the first 100 days of his administration could determine whether or not he is effective as president.

I have accepted that Obama is my president, so I’m trying my damndest to be supportive of him. I want to believe that he in fact will bring change to Washington, as he promised, and that it wasn’t just another cynical campaign strategy to get elected. America needs a leader, rather than a politician at this crucial hour.

There are so many areas that require a response that’s not rooted in maintaining the status quo. Take for instance education. Every politician talks a good game. Who would ever think of running for office and being opposed to a quality education? However, talking about the need to reform or revamp education is different than actually having a policy that accomplishes that task.

When the Obamas made the decision to send their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, to Sidwell Friends, they were following in the footsteps of other prominent Washington pols—the Clintons sent Chelsea to Sidwell, as did Richard and Pat Nixon with Tricia. Al Gore’s son graduated from the school, and Joe Biden’s three granddaughters are currently attending. Both girls were attending private school in Chicago—University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

I’m all for the two Obama girls receiving a topnotch education. I’m also not unsympathetic about security issues. Given the amount of competition this apparently generated among DC’s elite institutions, it is quite apparent that there’s much more than politics at stake on this matter.

Since Mr. and Mrs. Obama are able to make choices about what’s best for their children, and I think they should be able to, shouldn’t every parent have a choice about where their son or daughter receives their education? Unfortunately, for many DC parents, they send their kids to their neighborhood public school, and that’s the end of the matter.

Interestingly, DC school's chancellor, Michelle Rhee (whose own kids attend the local public schools she oversees) could have benefited from an Obama choice bucking the usual Democrat response of private, over public. Rhee has been attracting attention for her bold efforts at trying to turn around one of the nation’s worst urban school systems. A vote of confidence (like this DC mother hoped for) coming from America’s educator in chief would have been an endorsement of the kind of leadership that many of America’s failing schools require.

Given that America’s elite, like Barack and Michelle Obama, have the choice of where their daughters go to school, and knowing the importance of education on success later in life, it would only seem fair that other DC parents were afforded some measure of choice.

According to public opinion polls, 65 percent of adult African-Americans and 63 percent of adult Hispanics favor the use of school vouchers, and more than half of minority adults give higher marks to their local police than their public schools. Yet, the number of minority students that are quitting the education system is staggering, says the National Journal.

Since a majority of minority parents favor vouchers has me hoping that the Obama administration will break from the traditional Democrat position and allow choices for other parents that may not have the means to send their kids to a school like Sidwell Friends.

Please bring the change you spoke about on the campaign trail.

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