I suspect my evening last night was similar to that of many education policy types. The Eduwife and I had enjoyed a quiet dinner, I was spared Red Sox misery for one night, thanks to the debate, and was frankly dozing off after a glass of wine because the debate seemed to be merely reinforcing a status quo that I like, a Dem lead. But then, an “oh s**t” from the still-alert Eduwife jolted me back to life right at the end of the debate when D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee became a presidential political football.
So now everyone wants to know, is Rhee a voucher supporter as Senator McCain claimed? Politico weighs-in here but Fast Company’s Jeff Chu, who profiled Rhee recently, scores the absolute must-read take on all this. And here is a non-decisive statement Rhee issued to DC’s City Paper this A.M.
As relayed earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal Rhee has said that, “”I would never, as long as I am in this role, do anything to limit another parent’s ability to make a choice for their child. Ever.” But that response was in the context of whether she’d oppose the voucher program, not whether she supports vouchers as a broader policy. I think what’s Rhee’s giving voice to here is the ambiguity that a lot of reformers see with regard to voucher programs like the small one in D.C. On the one hand, vouchers are clearly not a remedy at any scale for what ails our urban schools and often cut against rather than for greater accountability in education. Yet at the same time, if you spend time in schools like the ones in D.C., it’s pretty hard to get worked up about a program to provide some parents there with a better option or to argue with a straight face that doing so is somehow a threat to the Republic — as some do. But that’s not the same as seeing vouchers as a broadly applicable or positively impactful reform.
In any event, the future of the D.C. voucher program is a sleeper issue that will land on the new President’s desk next year…And, now is a good a time as any to read Clay Risen’s outstanding Rhee profile in the new Atlantic.