The Hill reports that President Obama’s contribution to Sidwell Friend’s recent fundraising auction was less than impressive, if not downright disappointing. The school, which is home to first daughters Malia and Sasha, holds the auction to fund scholarships for low-income children whose families cannot afford tuition at the elite school.
When the children of presidents attend Sidwell Friends, expectations for the auction run high. When Chelsea Clinton was a student, her father agreed to play a round of golf with the highest bidder, while Chelsea herself offered babysitting services. Chelsea continues to raise money for the auction by donating lunches and dinners for high bidders. What have the Obamas donated? Why, signed pictures of themselves, of course! The winning bidders will receive a copy of Rolling Stone signed by President Obama and an autographed copy of Michelle Obama’s Vogue cover.
The Hill continues:
Money raised in the auction supports scholarships for low-income youth whose parents cannot afford the pricey tuition. Recently, President Obama signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that — with the stroke of a pen — ended the DC Opportunity Scholarships that help 1,700 Washington students afford private school. Two of those who benefit from the program, Sara and James Parker, are schoolmates of the Obama daughters.
Similarly, with the stroke of a pen — autographing Rolling Stone — Obama limited the amount of money that would be raised to provide scholarships. A round of golf with Bill Clinton when he was president sold for nearly six figures. Surely a round of golf with Obama would fetch far more and help low-income, largely minority students attend Sidwell Friends.
Alas, low-income students in DC have probably grown accustomed to such disappointment. George Will recently painted a clear picture of the program’s future, noting:
This issue [of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program] will be back. In a few months, the appropriation bill for the District will come to the floor of the House of Representatives, at which point there will be a furious fight for the children’s interests. Then we will learn whether the president and his congressional allies are capable of embarrassment. On the evidence so far, they are not.
Nor is Congress embarrassed by the fact that they embrace school choice for their own families, while simultaneously denying such a choice to poor children in the District. Despite the fact that 44 percent of Senators and 36 percent of Representatives have at one point sent a child to private school, an amendment by Senator Ensign which would have saved the D.C. voucher program was voted down 58-39.
While the President recently created reason for optimism stating, “Secretary Duncan will use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works,” it does not appear they’ve applied that logic to the case of DC scholarships. The Department of Education knows the program works. Parents know the program works. Children certainly know the program works.
Why won’t the President and Congress let it work?