Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DLC Head Harold Ford Defends DC Opportunity Scholarships, Praises Pres. Obama's Courage

In a recent opinon column in the Mar. 26 issue of Politico newspaper, former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. praises President Obama's courage and resolution on school reform. Ford is current chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).
President Barack Obama...called for higher standards, more charter schools, merit pay and eliminating bad teachers....
Ford clearly identifies the public-school Establishment that he expects will oppose genuine reform:
Obama expects that special interests will oppose his reform agenda. Those who do will fight vigilantly to hold onto the failed schools that shame us as a nation.

But their actions will put them against the best interests of our children and on the wrong side of history.
Ford says the past anti-reform efforts of the Establishment lead one to expect more of the same from them. He mourns the death of opportunity scholarships in the District of Columbia, "tragically... killed by Senate Democrats":
Teachers unions and education groups have expressed opposition in the past to ideas like merit pay and charter schools. They are strongly opposed to a successful voucher program in Washington, D.C., which tragically was killed by Senate Democrats in the omnibus spending bill that passed the Senate last week.
But Ford says we have reason to hope, because when it comes to education policy, President Obama will be a brave and tenacious leader:
On behalf of the nation's children, Obama is prepared to take on members of his own party and the special interests.
Perhaps, most interesting of all, Ford calls for a mass movement of aroused parents. With a combination of "missionary zeal and political sophistication," an organized grass-roots force of well-informed parents could apply effective and lasting pressure:
It is also time we wake the sleeping giant: the parents who have children attending public schools....Parents — motivated by wanting a world-class education for their children and being highly informed and organized — could bring persistent pressure to members of Congress to adopt an agenda of change to fix our failing schools.
Ford describes well the hopes that President Obama has created for genuine school reform. We should also consider seriously Ford's thoughtful proposal of a mass organization of parents committed to student success.

What do readers think of Pres. Obama's response thus far to the impending demise of DC opportunity scholarships?

UPDATE (3/31/09) For an alternative view of President Obama's courage on school reform, see Richard Cohen's Mar. 24 column in the Washington Post. Here is the relevant excerpt:
[I]n domestic matters, Obama's image has become muddled. He remains more popular than credible. Where does he draw the line? Not at tax delinquency, clearly, and not at earmarks, clearly, and not at real school reform, which he advocates but has done little to implement.


  1. Ford is right in saying that what will inevitably reform public schools is a large, well-organized grassroots movements propelled by parents because it is parents who hold passionate views on the failing state of public education in our nation. For more information, visit www.paths2choice.com.

  2. I agree with Ford that parents have a very important role in reforming education. Great post!

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