Missed Opportunity for Courage on Education

Conn Carroll /

10 March 2009 - Washington, DC - President Barack Obama delivers remarks on education reforms at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of CommerceÕs 19th Annual Legislative Conference at the Washington Marriott, Washington DC

President Barack Obama was getting credit for “taking on teachers’ unions” before he even gave his speech on education today, and nothing he ended up saying contained enough substance to honestly be called courage.

True, he did vaguely endorse “merit pay” but it is still completely unclear what type of merit pay he will end up proposing. If Obama just provides bonuses for teachers who put in extra hours or receive more training, then there will be no real change at all. Even his call for more charter schools, which is admirable, is nothing different than what President Bill Clinton was calling for over a decade ago.

What was decidedly uncourageous about President Obama’s speech was his decision to not even mention the plight of the 1,700 Washington, D.C. school children whose educational futures Obama holds in his hands.

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Omnibus that would save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program that has placed 1,700 low-income kids into private schools of their choosing. Last week, Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan even said: “I think those kids need to stay in their school.”

If Obama had come out in support if these kids’ futures, then that would have been a truly courageous stand against the teachers’ unions.