Barack Obama: School Choice for My Children, But Not Thy Children

Rocky Mountain News guest columnist Robert Maranto – an endowed chair at the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform – makes some striking points about some politicians’ school choice hypocrisy. Especially about one very prominent politician in particular:

Candidate [Barack] Obama declares that “We need to fix & improve our public schools, not throw our hands up and walk away from them,” the way Barack and Michelle Obama have with their own children. Candidate Obama’s official education program opposes private school choice, and only under pressure gave a very qualified endorsement to public charter schools.

Instead of letting parents choose, Obama emphasizes bureaucratic programs like teacher certification. Supporters of traditional teacher certification programs, like Obama education adviser Linda Darling Hammond, want all public school teachers to be certified. They argue that no one wants children to be operated on by uncertified doctors, so why should they be taught by uncertified teachers?

Yet unlike medical certification, there is precious little evidence that teacher certification works. Those same rich people who would never send their children to unlicensed doctors choose to pay big bucks to have those same children taught by unlicensed teachers.

Just look at Sen. Obama and other recent presidential candidates.

Sen. Obama’s family chose to send him to Hawaii’s elite Punahou School, which does not even consider certification when hiring new teachers. (I asked their personnel office.) Barack and Michelle Obama themselves rejected Chicago’s notoriously poor public schools, which are staffed by certified teachers, to send their daughters to the much storied Laboratory (“Lab”) School. When asked whether she hires certified teachers, the Lab School’s personnel director said “we do not look at that; it doesn’t make any difference.”

Need an explanation? Insisting that teachers pass through a state certification system is front and center in the National Education Association’s agenda. The benefits for students from this policy are essentially zero. But it gives NEA greater control. NEA also opposes school choice, for the same reason: it threatens their monopoly status. Who cares whether it benefits students or not?

Barack Obama the candidate has no reason to irk a powerful lobbying group that has endorsed and supported his campaign. During the last presidential debate, Obama made the dubious claim that evidence “doesn’t show that [private school choice] actually solves the problem.”

But Barack Obama the parent knows better than to trust the NEA talking points. And he’s not skeptical enough about the data to put his own kids in private schools.

As Robert Maranto points out in his Rocky article, all the recent major Presidential candidates have been products of private school education. And many send their children to private schools. Then why is it so hard for some to support school choice for students whom it really could help?