Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama, Quizzed on Private Schooling, Is Blunt

This is from

Obama, Quizzed on Private Schooling, Is Blunt
President Obama offered a bleak assessment of the schools in the
nation’s capital, saying his daughters could not get the same
education in a D.C. public school that they are getting at Sidwell Friends, the elite
private school they attend.

The president did not use the issue of security for his two daughters
as an excuse for his decision to put them in private schools. Rather,
he said, Sidwell Friends offers a better education.

“I’ll be blunt with you. The answer is no right now,” Mr. Obama said
during a half-hour interview about education on NBC’s “Today Show.” He
added that there were some “great” schools in the city, but that the
system over all was struggling.

“Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for
Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it,” Mr.
Obama said. “But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are
working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections.”

During the interview, the president also endorsed a longer school
year, saying that would “make sense” but would cost money. He said he
wants to work with teacher unions to reform schools and to honor the
profession. But he said teacher unions must be willing to acknowledge
the shortcomings of their members.

“You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are
dropping out,” Mr. Obama said, noting that some schools have high
failure rates. “In those schools, you have got to have radical change.
And radical change is something that is in the interests of the
students. And ultimately in the interests of the teachers.”

Mr. Obama said the coming documentary about schools, “Waiting for
Superman,” offers a “heartbreaking” image of students in a charter
school lottery, whose futures depend “on the bounce of a ball.”

In answer to a question about responsibility, Mr. Obama said part of
the blame lies with parents.

“If the kid’s coming home from school and the parents aren’t checking
to see if the kids are doing homework or watching TV, that’s going to
be a problem,” he said, adding that “at some point you have to say,
your job right now is to learn.”

The president defended his administration’s “Race to the Top” program,
in which states compete for a share of $4 billion in extra education
money by embracing school reform. He called it the “most powerful tool
for reform in decades.”

But he said that other school funding that is distributed to all
states according to a formula was also important so poor schools and
school districts continue to receive federal funds.

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