Many of us read the Washington Post because of its excellent reporting and the blog written by Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet. There are also other raising reporters but their hands appear tied and scared to write truth to power in the region after County Executive Rushern Baker III hijacked the county schools in a suspicious manner.
However, for sometimes now, its editorial pages are not a source of enlightenment about education in this region and a proper change management to assist the citizenary make better choices. According to blogger Diane Ravitch, For the entire reign of the controversial Michelle Rhee as the D.C. schools chancellor, the editorial page of the Post defended her every move. It claimed success when there was none. In the eyes of the Post editorial board, Rhee could do nothing wrong. The fact that D.C. has the largest achievement gaps of any urban district in the nation seems to have eluded their gaze.
Now the Post has endorsed the recent legislation to start a voucher program in Maryland. It is a bizarre editorial. It suggests that “the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray last April shone new light on the shortcomings of the public school system and the injustice that does.” Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van, where he was shackled and improperly restrained without a seat belt. Did his death say anything about “the shortcomings of the public school system”? Would school vouchers have prevented his death or the unrest that followed? Freddie Gray’s death was caused by a broken neck; the broken neck was the result of negligence. If Maryland had offered school vouchers, would “the unrest” have not occurred? If Freddie Gray had gone to a parochial school, would the police have put a seat belt on him? I don’t understand the logic. Maybe someone could explain it. Certainly the Post doesn’t.
The editorial also errs in praising the D.C. voucher program. The final evaluation of the program found no academic gains; it found a higher graduation rate for students who persisted in the program, but also very high attrition rates. The students likeliest to see no academic gains were those attending SINI schools (Schools in Need of Improvement), for whom the program was created.
Voucher proponents have a hard time finding a model for future voucher programs. It is not Milwaukee or Cleveland or the District of Columbia. Vouchers have been promoted by the fringe right for more than half a century. They have the support of right wing think tanks, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, ALEC, and red-state governors. The goal is to replace public education with a free market, and to right wing ideologues, evidence is irrelevant. In North Carolina, for example, vouchers were recently adopted by the Tea Party legislature (the same one that just passed a law allowing discrimination against gay and transgender people). Voucher schools do not have to adopt state curriculum standards, are permitted to hire uncertified teachers, and do not have to administer state tests. They can use textbooks that teach creationism, and they are free to discriminate in selecting their students.
It is sad to see the Washington Post encouraging the diversion of public funds to religious schools for the nation’s neediest students while majority of public school students suffer.