(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday. The encounter did not go well for Secretary Duncan. He claimed that the Wall Street Journal editorial was “fundamentally dishonest” and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him, despite the newspaper’s contention that it did, repeatedly.
The Wall Street Journal, however, provided Harsanyi with evidence of extensive contacts with high level high ranking Duncan subordinates. Harsanyi wrote:
When I called the Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different — that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing — story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups in Duncan’s office. The voucher study — which showed progress compounding yearly — had been around since November and its existence is mandated by law. So at best, Duncan was willfully ignorant.
So let’s review. Harasanyi essentially asks Joanne Jacob’s question “What did Arne Duncan know and when did he know it?” directly to Secretary Duncan. His response: I KNEW NOTHING!
It looks as though the very next thing out of Secretary Duncan’s mouth was a denunciation of the Wall Street Journal and then a claim that they had made no effort to contact him. Given that this is empirically falsifiable, it certainly doesn’t add much to the Sergeant Schulz routine on his knowledge regarding the study.
Harsanyi goes on to discuss the incoherence of what Duncan had to say about the program:
But the most “fundamentally dishonest” aspect of the affair was Duncan’s feeble argument against the program. First, he strongly intimated that since only 1 percent of children were able to “escape” (and, boy, that’s some admission) from D.C. public schools through this program, it was not worth saving.
So, you may ask, why not allow the 1 percent to turn into 2 percent or 10 percent, instead of scrapping the program? After all, only moments earlier, Duncan claimed that there was no magic reform bullet and it would take a multitude of innovations to fix education.
Then, Duncan, after thrashing the scholarship program and study, emphasized that he was opposed to “pulling kids out of a program” in which they were “learning.” Geez. If they’re learning in this program, why kill it? And if the program was insignificant, as Duncan claimed, why keep these kids in it? Are these students worse off? Or are they just inconveniencing the rich kids?
Duncan can’t be honest, of course. Not when it’s about politics and paybacks to unions who are about as interested in reforming education as teenagers are in calculus.
Again with the magic bullet! The question isn’t whether vouchers are a magic bullet or not, but whether they help disadvantaged children learn better. The evidence is clear- THEY DO.
UPDATE: Mark Hemingway weighs in on the Denver Post column at NRO’s the Corner.