Not too surprisingly D.C. vouchers are back in action as part of the budget deal. They were included with a set of policy riders as part of the final deal. Two interesting dimensions to this. First the actual implementation. Running a school voucher program is harder than you might think because of issues around income and residency verification, various admissions and policy issues at participating schools, and assessment and accountability requirements and so forth. After Congress discontinued the program the infrastructure supporting all that was basically dismantled and the operators have moved onto other things because only students in the program at the time Congress ended it would continue in it. So stay tuned to see how that’s handled.
The politics are interesting as well. You don’t have to be a D.C. statehood advocate to bristle at the way Washington is treated as a chit in these negotiations. But while positions on the abortion and needle exchange issues are more straightforward the politics on vouchers are complicated in a few ways. First, with a few exceptions (for instance former Mayor Marion Barry) the city’s elected class, starting with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and including current Mayor Vincent Gray don’t like the voucher program but parents generally do – especially those that do or can participate. Meanwhile, there is really only halfhearted opposition to D.C. vouchers these days at best among national Democrats – in no small part because vouchers haven’t lived up to the billing of either proponents or foes and the city’s schools still have such a long way to go.
Elsewhere: The Washington Post gets its revenge on Richard Whitmire by commissioning Diane Ravitch to review his recent book “The Bee Eater”, Whitmire responds here. I don’t really care that the paper chose Ravitch to review the book, I like an edgy review, but am disappointed that the review didn’t engage with the actual manuscript and its ideas (as most reviews have failed to). Bee Eater has become a classic example of book as conversation piece, which is too bad because the Rhee story was – and is – complicated if you move past the topline stuff. And the book has some good reporting and analysis on all that! AFT head Randi Weingarten may need a better speechwriter but given how she handled this I think it’s hard to label her a plagiarist as some are trying to do today. Speaking of strawmen and of The Post, there are obviously problems with (and limitations to) standardized tests and today’s accountability methods but this essay on standardized testing in Outlook seemed to go out of its way to obscure them – but many strawmen slain in the process. And speaking of the AFT some interesting (and potentially tension creating) stuff in their new Gen Y report.