Education Discussion: Obama-Lauer Never Say V-Word

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No, not that v-word.  V . . . as in vouchers.

They might as well have been a couple of Soviet apparatchiks in 1955 discussing implementing better production procedures in diesel-engine factories.  You can talk all day about “best practices, “what works,” blah, blah, blah.  But there’s only one thing that has or will ever be worked to improve the quality of any product, from football teams to cars to education: competition.

The only way to introduce real competition into education is via vouchers: giving parents and children real choice and making all schools—from government ones to parochial to private—compete on a level playing field.

But bizarrely, the concept of vouchers, let alone the word itself, never crossed the lips of either Pres. Obama or Matt Lauer during their half-hour discussion of education on this morning’s Today/Morning Joe simulcast as part of the networks’ two-day Education Nation summit.

The closest either came was a discussion of charter schools.  But while charter schools introduce a modicum of competition where they exist, they are also ultimately government-funded and subject to the oversight, if the looser control, of the government.  They don’t and can’t come close to creating the kind of across-the-board competition that a strong voucher system would.

There was a perfect opportunity for PBO to have mentioned vouchers, or for Lauer to have pursued the topic with a question—in particular, the president’s decision to kill the DC voucher program.  As seen in the video clip, it came when an audience member asked the president whether he felt his daughters would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a DC public school that they are receiving in the “very elite private academy [Sidwell Friends] that they are attending.”

PBO couldn’t claim that they would.  But instead of pointing to vouchers as a solution, he offered pabulum about how parents who “don’t have a lot of choice about where they live” should be “getting the same quality of education” for their children.  Nice wish. But without vouchers, the vast majority of children will be condemned to education in government-run, union dominated schools that aren’t forced to compete.  Only vouchers and the competition they would introduce can break the logjam and lead to real improvement.

Why do you think that for PBO and Lauer, the v-word was verboten?

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