March 16 2010
Vicki E. Alger
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) began planning the death of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program nearly two years ago, proclaiming in June 2008, "I can tell you that the Democratic Congress is not about to extend this program." A vote to extend and expand the program could occur as early as today, thanks to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and his bi-partisan coalition of Senators. Now Norton is trying to re-write history.
"The political maneuvering of District congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton can be breathtaking," writes the Washington Examiner's Jonetta Rose Barras. Norton has requested $5 million for hundreds of D.C. school children whose Opportunity Scholarships were revoked by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan-the fruit of Norton's poisonous tree. Yet she told Barras, "I cannot imagine sending a child to a school everybody knows is terrible." Don't think for a minute that this is about "the children."
Norton's request for cash comes now because hundreds of children shut-out of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program Norton and her allies want killed are now pouring back into the system they tried to flee. Never mind that D.C. Public Schools cost more than $28,000 per pupil compared to $6,600 for the average private-school Opportunity Scholarship-which eases overcrowding and saves money, which Norton supposedly wants.
What program opponents like Norton also don't to mention is that by law, under the District's funding system, whatever sum is appropriated for the Opportunity Scholarship Program (typically $14 million annually until this year), public schools receive an equal amount on top of their regular annual funding. So if Norton were really concerned about more money-for the children-then she'd be the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship's biggest fan.
Barras' response to such hypocrisy is priceless:
Get out of here! Norton knows she and other Democrats are the reason the program has yet to be reauthorized, after its initial five-year funding expired. When her party gained control of the House, it was on Dems' top 10 list of things to kill. The Obama administration agreed to fund the scholarships for only two more years -- despite the fact hundreds of low-income black and Hispanic children accepted for 2010 would be turned away and other young people already in the program might not be able to finish. ... Truth be told, Norton's request is for guilt-easing money.
Let's hope the Senate behaves more honorably and votes today to extend this life-changing program.