Will President Obama Set Record Straight on How School Choice Has Helped Kids?

I guess being president means you get to say whatever you want. Now let’s be clear: Most of the big-people politics goes over my head, and I don’t bother to get into all that. But when the leader of the free world chimes in on school choice, it can’t help but capture my attention.

(H/T Choice Media) Cue Jason Riley’s Wall Street Journal political diary from yesterday, highlighting Bill O’Reilly’s recent exclusive interview with President Obama:

Asked by Mr. O’Reilly why he opposed school vouchers that “level the playing field” and “give poor people a chance to go to better schools,” the president replied, “Actually, every study that’s been done on school vouchers, Bill, says that it has very limited impact if any.”

Riley does a capable job challenging the Chief Executive’s assertion, first by pointing readers to the great compilation of gold-standard research studies provided by the Friedman Foundation. We have nearly unanimous research results in favor of school choice’s positive learning impacts — especially for low-income students.

In June 2010, Obama’s own Department of Education released an evaluation of the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which found participation significantly increased the chances a student would graduate from high school. Maybe that qualifies as a “very limited impact” when you are Commander-in-Chief.

Now, to be fair, the President of the United States isn’t the only person who has mischaracterized the evidence on private school choice. But when you have a position that important, the consequences are that much more profound. The truth is still getting its boots on.

Riley has a harsh assessment of Obama’s motives. How accurate that assessment is, I can’t say for sure. But it would be wonderful to hear our 44th president issue a full clarification of what the research actually says about school choice.