Obama, the Chicago Sun-Times, ABC News, Presidential debates and improving education for minorities-- watch on cable and the web.

Improving Education for minorities -- a hot political topic ? (watch the only debate in town on this issue )

There is a consensus, no doubt, from the President of the United States to the folks who run or manage the large media organizations to the candidates who are running for President in the Republican Presidential Primary that the conditions in the inner city public schools, which are majority minority, are intolerable. Given that consensus, you would think education and how to improve its quality for minorities would be a hot, political, media topic, making its way into the Republican Presidential debates, a well as into other mainstream public policy forums. Think again.

The Obama flip-flop that makes Romney look like a piker 

More than nine years ago, Barack Obama, told Berkowitz on his TV show, Public Affairs, that then State Senator Obama would do anything to improve the “admittedly intolerable conditions in the inner city schools.”  Even school vouchers-school choice had to be “on the table, for discussion,” he said.  One year later, Obama was a U. S. Senate Candidate competing for teachers’ union support in a hotly contested seven candidate Democratic Primary. At that time, Obama said on Berkowitz' show, “As you know, Jeff, I’m for charter schools, not school vouchers.”  Of course, Berkowitz knew no such thing and reminded State Senator Obama what he had told Berkowitz previously about school vouchers-school choice. Somehow, Obama had no problem with that prior inconsistent statement. I guess U. S. Senate Candidate  Obama  just took school vouchers off the table, after careful consideration—of his need for teachers’ union financial support.

As Obama’s good friend and a frequent guest of "Public Affairs,", Forrest Claypool, now CTA President, once told Berkowitz when he asked Claypool why his good buddy and fellow reformer Obama was not supporting Claypool in his quest to beat Daley lackey and machine pol, John Stroger, in their contest for the Democratic Party nomination for Cook County Board President in 2006, “politics is complex.” We''ll try to remember Claypool's admonition as we try to sort things out in the 2012 Presidential election season.

Obama's education record as President: Abolish vouchers and don't create charters

In his three years as President of the United States, President Obama has done little or nothing to empower low income,  minority parents to exercise school choice or otherwise improve the quality of education for their kids.  Of course, the Obamas have always exercised their option for school choice, afforded them by their wealth and upper income affiliations, to exit the low performing public schools in the inner cities of Chicago and DC, for higher performing private schools that cost the same amount as the poverty level income for three families of four ($60,000 per year).

I doubt anyone can argue that President Obama has been responsible for creating even one charter school.  Indeed, President Obama instructed his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, to kill, or should I say, abort,  a successful, DC school voucher-school choice program, much to the dismay of the parents and kids enrolled in that program.  In short, there has been a lot of talk of reform in education, especially for minority kids, but little action under President Obama.  “Race to the top,” supposedly President Obama's last clear chance for education reform in his first term in the White House, , has become a race to build public school bureaucracy and mediocrity.  Not exactly

Birth control trumps education reform?

In last Saturday night’s Republican Presidential debate in New Hampshire, ABC’s lead debate moderator, George Stephanopoulos, decided to spend fifteen minutes on the hot topic of the constitutionality of laws banning or promoting birth control(See, e.g., Griswold). That would be fifteen minutes more than George had for the topic of how to improve the quality of education for kids of low income parents, especially for low income minority parents. Now, that's a gross mis-allocation of scarce resources, if  ever there were one.

Sun-Times' editor McNamee accuses Berkowitz of  intellectual dishonesty

In tonight’s City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs, you can watch Tom McNamee, editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, debate and discuss with show host Jeff Berkowitz the theory and evidence regarding the efficacy of charter and voucher schools, relative to traditional public schools.  It’s a show full of hotly contested educational, government, public policy and political topics, with McNamee accusing Berkowitz of “intellectual dishonesty. “ You won’t want to miss the debate at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch.  21. But, if you do miss it on cable, you can always watch the McNamee-Berkowitz  show  here.  

What is so surprising from my dialogue with McNamee is his apparent discomfort with using, even in his discussion, the basic tools of social science.  He seemed to recoil whenever I would use the phrase "on average." For example, I argued to Tom that charter schools and voucher schools outperform, on average, traditional public schools.  For empirical support of my assertion, I referred (and handed to) Tom   a compilation and assessment of a significant number of studies of the efficacy of charter and voucher schools relative to traditional public schools, i.e., "School Choice, the Findings," by Herbert J. Walberg.  Tom's response was to refer me to a comparison of a charter school in Englewood with two tradional public schools in the area, and Tom argued that "it is hard to know whether the charter school in Englewood is doing any better than the two traditional public schools in the area."  Tom McNamee's anecdote may be interesting but it doesn't address the point I was making,  about a comparison of school performance, on average. across a large number of schools or school districts.  Sadly, Tom seemed to think it did.





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