For the third consecutive year, the National Basketball Association included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in its celebrity game on all-star weekend. Duncan played basketball at Harvard where he was a first team academic all-American. In Black History Month some viewers might have thought that his real job is to dish out assists to low-income black students so they can pursue their goal of a quality education. Actually, Duncan and his real squad perform better at blocking out those students.
As boss of Chicago public schools Duncan was part of a political machine heavily dominated by the teacher union. The Chicago connection was the reason Barack Obama brought Duncan to Washington DC as education secretary. The president, like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter before him, does not send his own children to the dysfunctional and dangerous DC public schools. But as the Washington Post said in a 2009 editorial, needy DC families also “want only a quality education for their children.”
Their few alternatives included charter schools and the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided vouchers of up to $7,500 for low-income students to attend the independent schools of their choice. Teacher unions and federal educrats oppose all school-choice programs and Arne Duncan captains their squad.
As the Post said “Mr. Duncan decided—disappointingly to our mind—to rescind scholarships awarded to 216 families for this upcoming school year.”
Duncan didn’t just oppose the scholarship program in principle. He took away scholarships already awarded, in effect taking points off the scoreboard. Those deprived families were virtually all black, like most NBA players. And as the Post said, “nine out of 10 students who were shut out of the scholarship program this year are assigned to attend failing public schools.” Arne Duncan banished them to the losing team but that is not the only reason he is out of place.
The federal Department of Education Duncan heads has only existed since 1980 and was a payoff to the National Education Association, the massive teacher cartel that endorsed Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Department now boasts a budget of $68.4 billion but that spending has not made the United States a global leader in student achievement. On the other hand, the department has done a better job at institutionalizing waste, fraud and abuse, including pre-dawn raids by armed enforcement squads. And boss Arne Duncan can become a celebrity even though opposes school choice for all Americans as a matter of basic civil rights and took away from low-income black students the scholarships they had already earned.