Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is Obama for or against vouchers?

It seems that Barack Obama, who told the big national teachers unions last year that he opposed public financing of vouchers for students to attend private schools, has changed his tune.

Campaigning in Wisconsin, where Milwaukee's popular voucher program sends more than 15 percent of the city's school children to private schools, Obama told the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is open to the idea of vouchers if studies end up proving they are effective in raising student achievement.

Obama said he remained a "skeptic" about vouchers, but would reconsider if the research showed otherwise. There has not been a conclusive longitudinal study of the effectiveness of Milwaukee's voucher program, although a new study is underway.

Rival Hillary Clinton has been highly critical of vouchers, even warning that widespread use of them could result in public financing for kids to attend schools that teach "jihad."

This Week in Education's Alexander Russo points out, however, that this isn't the first time Obama has spoken this way about vouchers and that he likes to use education as an example of his independence from Democratic orthodoxy.

I suppose it doesn't hurt to bring this up on the eve of Wisconsin's hotly contested primary.

This post also appears on my education blog Get on the Bus.

(Image: Obama with students at Northcentral Wisconsin Technical College. Credit: Wausau Daily Herald)

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