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The Teachers' Unions that Stole Christmas

The school-choice program for D.C. schoolchildren may end sooner than expected.

11:00 PM, Dec 7, 2009 • By SHERYL BLUNT
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Dempsey added that the District could also lose millions of dollars
in desperately-needed funding if the program is not renewed, since the
program's implementation was conditioned upon the city's public and
charter schools also receiving more money.

"The city could lose $54 million in federal education funding if
the program ends, plus $25 million if up to 1,700 [scholarship]
children go back to D.C. public schools," said Dempsey. If private
schools close, something many believe is likely for a few schools that
currently serve a high number of voucher students, even more children
will be affected.

One group that won't be bemoaning the voucher programs' end is the
teachers' unions. This spring National Education Association President
Dennis Van Roekel bluntly reminded Senators that "opposition to
vouchers is a top priority for NEA," and warned them that the NEA
would be paying keen attention to how they vote on vouchers.

"The National Education Association strongly opposes any extension
of the District of Columbia private school voucher ('DC Opportunity
Scholarship') program," Van Roekel wrote in a March 5, 2009 letter.
"We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and
whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend
the pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be
included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th
Congress."

The Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on
Money in State Politics recently released data showing that the NEA
topped the chart as the number one national donor during the 2007-08
election cycle, shelling out $57.6 million in combined federal and
state contributions. The American Federation of Teachers was number
25, with more than $13 million in contributions.

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency put this in
perspective, writing that the NEA's and AFT's 2007-08 contributions
meant that "America's two teachers' unions outspent AT&T, Goldman
Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan
Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil,
Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined."

The Obama administration--already having trouble explaining why it
is doing away with a program its own Department of Education reported
has advanced participating children's reading achievement by more than
three months--will now have another opportunity to explain to
low-income D.C. parents and students why it and the Democrat-led
Congress has decided to grant the teachers' unions' wish instead of
theirs.

Last February President Obama claimed in a weekly radio address
that he would fight special interests. "The system we have now might
work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run
Washington for far too long," Obama said. "But I don't. I work for the
American people."

D.C. students and parents like William and her son will no doubt
see things differently.

Sheryl Henderson Blunt is a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.