Editorials

Pleasing teachers unions a priority

"Waiting for Superman" is the new film by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of "An Inconvenient Truth," and it should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.

As a synopsis on the Fandango movie site says, this film "explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation's children."

Not only do we see children and their parents on the edge of their seats during a lottery that will determine who gets the educational equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card, we also watch the crestfallen faces of those who don't draw the magic numbers for decent schools, a better education and, thus, a hope for the future. Is this how a poor child's destiny should be decided, by lottery?

During a recent appearance on the "Today" show, a woman in the audience asked President Obama why he selected a tony private school for his daughters -- Sidwell Friends, where tuition is $31,069 a year -- over D.C. public schools. He said Sasha and Malia could not receive the same level of education from D.C. public schools that they get at Sidwell Friends.

The president said because of his position "we could probably maneuver" to get them into one of the better public schools, but he said the "broader problem" is that parents without "a bunch of connections" don't have such options.

Jimmy Carter sent his daughter, Amy, to a public school when he was president. The issue for the Obamas and everyone else with school-age kids is which school provides them the best education?

The poor do not have a choice, other than a lottery. This is immoral.

Too many politicians are in the pocket of the teachers unions, which pour gobs of money into their re-election coffers. The president's professed concern for failing schools is not matched by his actions. According to the Washington Examiner, he and his allies in the U.S. Senate "opted to kill D.C.'s federally funded school voucher program rather than risk sinking the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that will fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year."

In his book "Dreams From My Father," Obama wrote that when he was a community organizer in Chicago, "The biggest source of resistance [to school reform] was rarely talked about ... namely, the uncomfortable fact that every one of our churches was filled with teachers, principals, and district superintendents.

"Few of these educators sent their own children to public schools; they knew too much for that. But they would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before."

I would like to sit with Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they watch "Waiting for Superman" and ask them, "How can you do this to children? How could you let their brains die from intellectual malnutrition and doom them to a life of misery all because you want to please a union?"

Of all the things that disgust voters about Washington politicians, refusing to let poor children escape from failing government schools may be the most disgusting of all.

Contact Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.

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