Mar
03
2009

Hi, Sasha, Malia. Got a second?

I hope that you’re enjoying the White House, by the way.

It’s a pretty cool place for people your age, from what I’m told.

Anyway, I just thought that you should know: do you know Sarah & James Parker? They go to your school.

Yeah, them. Are they nice? I’ve never met them, so I don’t know. I do know that their parents really can’t afford to send them to your school without assistance; it’s called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, and it lets over 1,700 poor kids in DC get scholarships every year. It’s often called a “voucher” program, although people who like school choice wouldn’t agree: they want everybody to have the chance to pick the best schools for their kid, instead of just a small number. Still, this program is helping people who are usually making about half of much as the federal poverty level; it’s hard to dispute that it’s a good one. I’m sure that Sarah & James think that it’s a good program.

Unfortunately, Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) wants to throw them out of your school.

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal is ready to punch through a wall on this one, and I don’t blame him one bit:

Dick Durbin has a nasty surprise for two of Sasha and Malia Obama’s new schoolmates. And it puts the president in an awkward position.

The children are Sarah and James Parker. Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.

Known as the “Durbin language” after the Illinois Democrat who came up with it last year, the provision mandates that the scholarship program ends after the next school year unless Congress reauthorizes it and the District of Columbia approves. The beauty of this language is that it allows opponents to kill the program simply by doing nothing. Just the sort of sneaky maneuver that’s so handy when you don’t want inner-city moms and dads to catch on that you are cutting one of their lifelines.

…because it’s something that should make people angry. It’s unfortunately true that Durbin hates school choice, and has for years; and he’s also very much liked by the National Education Association, which completely hates vouchers. So we really can’t trust that he’s doing anything except trying to kill the program without anybody noticing. The thing is, though, that he probably doesn’t hate Sarah & James; in fact, once he hears about the article above he’ll probably pull some strings and make sure that nobody from your school loses their scholarships. But you two don’t go to every school that has kids who’ll be affected by this. The ones that don’t go to yours will lose their scholarships, and they’ll go back to the public schools that their parents have moved heaven and earth trying to save them from.

No, this isn’t really fair.

Yes, I know that he was very nice to you two. Your father is the President of the United States; and before that he was one of Durbin’s coworkers. That means that Durbin sees both of you as people.

Moe Lane

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