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Obama's Damage Control on Vouchers

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Barack Obama dared to declare that he might be open to vouchers if there's evidence to back up this controversial education reform effort and, more importantly, if it's what's "best for kids."

Imagine that—a presidential hopeful being in favor of a program if there's research to support it, and if it helps kids!

Well, now the Obama campaign is in damage-control mode because vouchers are one of the most polarizing issues in education reform, and fiercely opposed by the teachers' unions. After all, the National Education Association's endorsement is still up for grabs.

Obama's campaign sent Education Week this statement, offering a different interpretation of Obama's interview last week with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. According to the campaign, Obama "repeated his longstanding opposition to vouchers." Not quite. What Obama did was give a six-minute, thoughtful response indicating he was a skeptic of vouchers, but that he might change his mind if there was research to back it up.

That's anything but a ringing endorsement of vouchers. But it stands in stark contrast to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's not-under-any-circumstances opposition to vouchers, which she claims could be used to fund training grounds for "jihad."

What's more at issue is how Obama's response has been portrayed in the media and blogsphere. Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform called this a Holy Sh*t moment. I thought it was an "eyebrow raising" moment, since Obama's in a tough race for the nomination and dared to use the "V" word.

But on the flip side, there are those who think Obama's statements weren't that big of a deal. Union watchdog Mike Antonucci made the good point that Obama was speaking to reporters in a city with a voucher program, in a state where he needed to win. (And Obama did win the Wisconsin primary last night.) Alexander Russo said he's heard Obama's take on vouchers before. And the Core Knowledge Blog is a skeptic as well.

The Obama campaign maintains that the news reports have been "misleading." However, perhaps what the campaign should be doing is emphasizing Obama's statement that he would do "what's best for kids" if the research supports it, regardless of any "preconceptions" he might have. Isn't that what we would like our candidates to say?

4 Comments

Good grief, you and Joe Williams got the initial story wrong - which was obvious to anyone who watched the video of the interview. Now, instead of admitting you got it wrong, you're twisting yourself into knots tying to defend your initial claims.

Less wishful thinking and more honesty, please.

I don't see where is Obama's "sin" in saying that he is willing to try something if it is for the best of kids and supported by research! Aren't the kids interest the first priority? Or should be union's first, in your opinion? If there is an achievement gap in education between our kids and kids in other countries, as different reports show (PISA), teacher's union have their significant part in this - defending mediocricity among the teachers and making positive changes almost impossible.

Michele McNeil's post suggests she has more than a bit of potential. Steve does not make it clear what was "wrong" about the initial story. Obama while in Milw expressed surprise that there had not been a longitudinal study and said he'd look at the research results rather than maintain a knee-jerk opposition to V's. That is and was news, as is his rollback and waffling since. BTW, the first reports from the study that is ongoing come out Monday. The teachers union and its political agents in Wisc. government blocked it on three different occasions since 2000, but the independent study finally is underway.

If there are a great change in the system of education is the high tuition fee that there are said to be that some part of economic crisis. In the sense that there are allots financial dividends that they are observed with. I don't know how payday loans will be affected by Obama's new stimulus proposal, but other details are starting to come out. It is called the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan;" the idea is to get more money into the hands of middle and lower class Americans to get the spending cycle going again. The targets for the stimulus, the majority of payday loans consumers, will be getting tax cuts and investment will be made by government into infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and water mains. He also wants to get some cash flow into states that are hurting for revenue. Maybe with a little luck his plan will turn the economy around, and Americans will only need payday loans for emergencies, not just to make ends meet.

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