Ever since the latest scandal at the U.S. Department of Education broke earlier this month, the department has been saying one thing and doing another. But even if the department’s double talk allows voucher opponents to prevail, the double talk itself only proves that their days in power are numbered.
The original scandal was that the department kept secret vital information showing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program improves academic outcomes while Congress took a crucial vote on its future. When the department finally had to release the good news about vouchers, it tried to bury the facts under spin and obfuscation. And when that failed to keep the story out of the papers, it accused the Wall Street Journal of lying about how it withheld vital information from Congress. But an investigation quickly proved that it wasn’t the Journal who was lying.
Now, the plot has thickened — and so has the duplicity. With no legal basis for doing so, the department has preemptively declared the program dead by forbidding it to accept applications for the fall.
Never mind that Congress hasn’t ended the program — it voted to make next year’s funding conditional on later votes of approval from itself and the D.C. Council. By forbidding anyone to apply for vouchers next year, with no legal basis for doing so since the program has not been ended by Congress, the department ensures that the program will end regardless of what Congress decides.
Never mind the law; the U.S. Department of Education does what it pleases. But then, voucher opponents have never been particularly scrupulous about their methods.
Adding insult to injury, the department has pretended that it’s not killing the program even while killing it. The department sent voucher families a weasel-worded letter designed to create the impression that it’s working to help save the voucher students even as it drives the knife into their backs. And the education secretary told the Chicago Tribune that he supposedly hasn’t ruled out supporting the program, almost exactly at the same time his department was unilaterally shutting the program down.