During a recent "Today" show interview about education, President Obama was asked if his daughters — who currently attend the elite, $31,000-per-year Washington private school Sidwell Friends — could get a comparably "high quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school." The president was direct: "I'll be blunt with you," he said. "The answer's no right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling." Does Obama's answer undermine his commitment to public-school reform?
He's just being honest: Oh c'mon, says Michelle Cottle at The New Republic, this is a cheap, tired excuse to "revive the eternal debate over whether it is immoral for presidents (especially Democratic ones) to send their children to private schools." Even the best public schools don't compare to Sidwell Friends, "one of the most elite — and elitist — schools in the country." Like the flap over the first dog's purebred status, this an "absurd political 'controversy.'"
"Obama said Sidwell Friends is better than D.C. public schools? Well, duh."
Obama comes off badly, given his position on school vouchers: The issue isn't that he's making the choice to send his daughters to a private school — "good for him" — but that he's "denying" other "parents the ability to send their kids to a better school," says Jason Pye at United Liberty, noting that Obama "has supported the end expiration" of a "popular" D.C. school-voucher program.
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And his public-school initiatives won't correct the inequity: Obama's educational policies — which "scapegoat teachers, make standardized test scores all-important, and embrace market-driven reforms" — certainly won't help public schools offer the sort of education Sitwell Friends can, says Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post. The president's initiatives make little mention of "parental involvement, early childhood education, after-school programs...all of the things that a student at Sidwell could expect to get."
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