Obama not an Ideologue? The data says otherwise

by Alex Ritz on February 10, 2010

“I’m not an ideologue.” So said President Obama when he attended the Republican retreat. My first reaction to that statement is: why do you need to defend yourself against a claim that hasn’t been made publicly? Would you deny having a personality trait that no one ever accused you of having?

Second, if the President is being honest and he truly is not an ideologue, the data should bear that out. He has been occupying the White House for over a year now. Certainly there is enough information available to make the call one way or the other. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t seem to agree with the President.

From Jay P. Greene, an endowed professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

In a major education address last March, President Obama declared that his administration would “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: it’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” Unfortunately, the test that seems to guide the Obama administration’s education priorities is not whether a policy works, but whether it serves a political constituency. Nothing illustrates this disregard for evidence better than the administration’s treatment of two federally funded programs: the D.C. voucher program, which it is helping to kill, and Head Start, on which it has bestowed billions more dollars. If the administration actually made its funding decisions based on results, its positions would be just the opposite.

How do we know that the D.C. voucher program works? Take a look at the rigorously designed studies released by the Obama administration itself. Last April, the Department of Education put out its official evaluation of the voucher program. The evaluation, which used a gold-standard, random-assignment research design, found that after three years, D.C. students who won the lottery to attend a private school with a voucher significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery. The gap between voucher and control students was the equivalent of about five months of extra instruction in reading. Rather than embracing what manifestly worked, however, the administration stood by as Congress worked to phase out the D.C. voucher program. “Big picture, I don’t see vouchers as being the answer,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the Washington Post. They’re certainly not the answer that the pathologically anti-voucher teachers’ unions wanted him to embrace.

Meanwhile, the administration fully supports the government-operated Head Start preschool program, despite excellent evidence that the program doesn’t work. Obama has said that Head Start is “the first pillar of reforming our schools . . . [and] that’s why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I signed into law invests $5 billion in growing Early Head Start and Head Start.” He might have added that this would come on top of the more than $100 billion that taxpayers have spent on Head Start since 1965. But the Department of Health and Human Services’ official evaluation of Head Start, released last week, confirms what several earlier studies have found: kids get no lasting benefits from participating in the program. By the end of kindergarten and first grade, students who had been in Head Start are no further ahead academically or behaviorally than students who lost the lottery to enter the program.

For anyone who has been a student of Barack Obama, this inconsistency should come as no surprise. After all, Mr Obama did teach the ways of Saul Alinsky in his youth. Armed with that information and knowing that Obama is a believer in the ways of Alinsky, this apparent contradiction makes sense. According to Alinsky in Rules for Radicals, there is no absolute truth. Truth is made up as you go along and as the situation dictates. The ends always justify the means.

This situation becomes clearer each day Obama occupies the Oval Office. The American people are beginning to notice that his words and actions do not match up. When he was employing these tactics on a small stage as a community organizer he was able to keep the plates spinning without issue but under the white hot light of the Presidency, there are simply too many plates and too many spectators.

Let’s hope he doesn’t do much damage to the republic before the voters show him the door.

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