As audacious as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s decision to take scholarship money away from low-income families is, the bigger story may be what exactly did Duncan know about the Department of Education’s Opportunity Scholarship study and when did he know it?
The Wall Street Journal reported last week:
Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.
Mr. Duncan’s office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You’d think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program.
The Denver Post’s David Harsanyi then followed up:
When I had the chance to ask Duncan — at a meeting of the Denver Post editorial board on Tuesday — whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal “no.” He then called the WSJ editorial “fundamentally dishonest” and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him, despite the newspaper’s contention that it did, repeatedly.
When I called the Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different — that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing — story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups in Duncan’s office. The voucher study — which showed progress compounding yearly — had been around since November and its existence is mandated by law. So at best, Duncan was willfully ignorant.
These stories beg the question: When it comes to the proven success of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, what did Secretary Duncan know and when did he know it?