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Posted at 8:44 AM ET, 09/27/2010

Obama says D.C. schools struggling now

By Washington Post editors

President Obama said Monday his daughters could not get the same quality of education from D.C. public schools that they get from the private Sidwell Friends school.

The president's comments came in an appearance on the "Today" television show as he was being interviewed in the White House by NBC's Matt Lauer.

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A woman in an audience watching the live interview asked Obama whether his daughters Malia and Sasha could get the same kind of education from a public school in his home city of Washington as they do from the elite private school.

Obama said: "I'll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now." The D.C. public schools, he said, "are struggling."

Obama added that because he is president he could "probably maneuver" to get his daughters into a well-regarded school in the city. But he said that there is a "broader problem" because working parents who "don't have a bunch of connections" can't necessarily find a good public school.

The interview with Lauer is part of an NBC effort to promote education issues this week. More to come on For more coverage of NBC's Obama interview, click here on

-- Nick Anderson

UPDATE at 10:22 a.m.: Here is NBC's transcript of the D.C. schools question and Obama's answer. The woman was chosen from a studio audience watching the live interview.

Question: Thank you for taking my question, President Obama. As a father of two very delightful and seemingly very bright daughters, I wanted to know if you think that Malia and Sasha would get the same kind of education at a D.C. public school compared to the elite private academy that they're attending now.

Obama: Thanks for the question, Kelly, and I'll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. They have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform. There are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system, and that's true by the way in every city across the country. There are some great public schools that are on par with any public school in the country. A lot of times you get [tested] in, or if the lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools, and so those options are not available for enough children. I'll be very honest with you, given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school ... for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But for a mom and a dad who are working hard but who don't have a bunch of connections, don't have a lot of choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else, and we don't have that yet."

By Washington Post editors  | September 27, 2010; 8:44 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Education  
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This country doesn't know How to teach Math. Instead of throwing more money at schools teaching the same ineffective garbage, why don't they "benchmark" countries who Are successful with Math?
Find out what methods Japan, China, etc.
are using to teach math, and change our way of doing it?
I've had mathematical geniuses tell me that if they didn't have a natural talent for math, and they had to learn math from our teachers----they'd flunk it too.

Posted by: ohioan | September 27, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Yes I'm almost certain that most parents in DC feel that same way the president feels about DC schools. So what his point?

Posted by: ania2007 | September 27, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Sidwell Friends sure ought to be better than the public schools since they charge $30,000 per year and control who they admit.

Posted by: buffysummers | September 27, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Obama said: "I'll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now." The D.C. public schools, he said, "are struggling."

That's not blunt, that's putting it mildly. "are struggling"? How about worst in the country? How about suck so bad you would never think of sending your kids there for a second?

Posted by: kevnet | September 27, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I was under the impression that the reason Chancellor Michelle Rhee was hired was to clean up public schools in DC. I love the way everybody blames the teachers. What about parental blame. There should be a place on a students file where teachers could designate "parentally deficient". What about the students themselves? Don't they need to take responsibility for their own learning? Let's also count the number of students a public teacher sees per day against those of a private school teacher. It's no secret that children learn better in smaller groups and yet public school classrooms are overfilled class after class after class. And for those of you who are clueless about what it takes to really teach, teachers don't walk out the door at 3:30pm. There's homework grading, recording those grades and there's prep for tomorrow's classes. You might be finished at about 7:00pm if you're lucky. I saw over 200 students a day in a middle school in California. That was normal. You also better know how to control behavior or your students will drive over you like a mack truck.

Teaching is a thankless job and politicians are constantly ragging on teachers for not being the teacher and the parent. Education eats its young and no wonder half of all teachers quit before the 5 year mark. Principals love to give the hard to control and low achieving crowd to the new guy. While older tenured teachers get the kids with parents who care. A lot of parents also use the school as a babysitting service and expect everything their child knows needs to come from the school. Call these same parents for a teacher-parent conference and they never show.

Please stop blaming teachers for a problem with society. Let's start with treating our teachers with a little respect. Let's emphasize the importance of a good education and what it means to be a parent.

Posted by: abijhan1 | September 27, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's good that he was honest.

Posted by: forgetthis | September 27, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Does the private school that the Obama's send their children to have "Organized Labor" ???

Posted by: richard36 | September 27, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Yes, public schools in America are failing -- because our government doesn't support or value education. Neither does American culture, which places material wealth, politics, tribalism, and consumerism far above education.

Posted by: Manwolf | September 27, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Mr President

Your continued interference in local matters of which the presidency has no constitutional authority has now risen to the impeachable level of offenses/

In addition to your unconstitutional delegation and combined with your operatives in congress we have offices and commission carrying out constitutional responsiblilites; again you now attempt to use a recess appointment ( warren) in an impermissable role of advisor to skirt the constitutional requirements of appointment;

you appear to have violated the constiution by your marketing of images and likenesses of yourself and stories of your life and the assigment of yor books in schools which would only increase your personal monies;
your wife may have enriched herself with clothing lines; the particulars of your side businesses have been withheld from the general public.

You used the office of the president to make comments that pressured a massachusetts da to dismiss charges that were clearly warranted against your friend Gates.

Mr President you withheld information regarding the state of the economy prublished in June 2009 and continued to funnel money to wall street instead of the suffering of this country.

Mr President you have increased the numbers of federal workers at a time when we have no money and many of the appointments are unwarranted

Mr president you have conducted a war in Afghanastan which has no purpose and no end;

Mr President you have altred the use of federal taxpayer moneies to initiate contests and games such as 'race to the top'.
None of these are authorized statutorily as permissable use of taxpayer money nor is the federal government intrusion into local school administrtion.

We have had enough of this long line of abuses by you personally and we the people demand an impeachment.

this country can not longer survive with you in the white house and we seek an orderly change by your removal the assumption of the presidencyt by the vice president.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | September 27, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

hey obama

Fenty took his kids out of the ward 4 school and sent them all the way over in chevy chase dc to a school many would think is as good as sidwell

NOw miss Rhee never sent her kids to the same ward 4 school and sent the instead to the magnet school on embassy row.

But Fenty and Rhee were in charge of the very school system you just trashed.

so they never believed in the so called reforms they were shilling ---hmmm how cute.
Yet you gae them hundreds of millions of taxpayer money h,,,,

the jig is up as they say.. we are all connecting the dots alll over the country and we are coming up with the same local school poniz scam being run by the likes of teach for america and its Goldman Sachs managing partner and Bill Gates and Eli Broad

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | September 27, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I am getting tired of people complaining Government and what it should do fix the public education system. Lets be honest and Obama said it best.......he can afford to send his daughters' to a private school. Someone will say well we need more charter what we need is cheaper tuition for students who wish to go into teaching. Think about folks, teachers do not make enough money, so the best and brightest minds typically go into fields that will pay them what they are worth. Lets for example say, if you're a college student who wish to be a Math or Science teacher, we will forgive 2/3 of your tuition after you graduate. Clearly, a smart, bright student will receive scholarships and offers to attend top notch universities, so the 2/3 tuition forgiveness will be nothing consider the avearge cost of 4 year university. Again, people our focus should be getting the best and brightest kids who wish to be teachers and give the peace of mind knowing that can be a teacher and no accrue debt.

Posted by: Sincear2021 | September 27, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

So Courtland Milloy, does this make Obama a black racist? He's a rich black guy who lives in DC but dosn't believe the public schools, which are dominated by blacks, are capable of a quality education for his kids. I think he is saying what everyone knows.

Posted by: VikingRider | September 27, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I do not know much about the Elementary and Middle School the younger daughter would attend but the High School the older child would attend is Woodrow Wilson. Wilson is regarded as the best high school in the district and by all accounts a very good education can be had there. It may not be the caliber of Sidwell Friends but it would be wholly unfair to say a quality public education is not available.

In fact, according to Wilson's website in 2008 they sent 3 to Yale, 4 to Michigan and sent students to Dartmouth, Princeton, UPenn, Tufts, GW, Georgetown, UNC etc...

Posted by: cowpasture2 | September 27, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I had a freind who was a teacher in rural appalachia [ all poor white kids]. He quit in frustration because most of the parents were uneducated, illiterates who would tell him to his face "why does my boy need schoolin to go to the mines"?

The problem with DC schools is the lack of support or a stable family life at home. All of the money in the world wont fix that! Ignorance breeds ignorance!

Posted by: sbf845 | September 27, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

cowpasture2 wrote:

Wilson is regarded as the best high school in the district and by all accounts a very good education can be had there

Neither of the Obama daughters are old enough for high school, but Banneker & The School Without Walls are the best high schools in the District. Wilson is a good comprehensive high school, but Banneker & SWW are nationally ranked and recognized.

Posted by: RCDC | September 29, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

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