July 14 2009
School-House Rocked-D.C. City Council Members Stand Up for Students, Tell Duncan to Hand Back Vouchers
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
This post was co-authored by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California.
In April, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan adopted a "presumed dead" strategy and rescinded D.C. Opportunity Scholarships for more than 200 low-income students-within 72 hours of his own department reporting that students who have used the scholarships, which average $6,600, to attend private schools perform up to two grades ahead of their public school counterparts in reading. Bi-partisan (see here at 96.45 minutes, here, and here), bi-cameral efforts are underway in Congress to save the program. Now a majority of the D.C. City Council has joined the fray by urging Secretary Duncan to give students their scholarships back-students like Latasha Bennett's four-year-old daughter Nia, who was set to attend kindergarten at the private school where her son has excelled until Duncan caved. Now Nia, and more than 200 scholarship students like her, must return to one of the country's most expensive, dysfunctional, and dangerous school systems-one Duncan, President Obama, and many Members of Congress wouldn't dream of sending their own children. Thankfully, a majority of the D.C. City Council grasps that Opportunity Scholarships mean brighter futures for those students...and our country, which was founded on the principle of equal opportunity for all.