There has been a steady stream of Democrats across the country embracing the idea of giving parent more control over where their children go to school, but there is still something jaw dropping about reading Marion Barry come out for school voucher and the DC scholarship program in today’s Washington Post:
I know it may surprise some that I would support a school voucher program, but I am proud to do so — and I especially support the D.C. scholarships. Many here in Washington also favor this program: community and business leaders, educators, parents, and elected officials who are putting children first. I would oppose this voucher program if it took money from the D.C. public schools, but it doesn’t.
I support this package because it provides much-needed financial support to all D.C. schools and because it offers parents a choice without hurting public schools. That’s a win-win situation. We must make sure that children in the District are given every chance to attend schools that work for them. To do anything else is wrong.
I disagree with the idea that voucher programs ever “take” money from public schools, but that’s an argument for another time. Barry recounts his conversations with parents in DC whose children are receiving a better education because of this greater freedom:
One mom, Wanda Gaddis, has worked for a long time, including serving as a parent advocate at her daughter’s public elementary school, to make sure her daughter gets a great education. At the meeting, I learned that her daughter is attending a private school in Ward 8 through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Gaddis told me, “The schools in D.C. were not educating my child. At first I did not have a choice, but I am so thankful that I and so many other parents did get choice with the Opportunity Scholarship Program. I can’t begin to tell you how much my child’s education has improved since starting with this program. It is a program that is helping to educate our children so they can have better, more productive lives and in turn create better communities here in Ward 8 and across D.C.”
I am a father and understand how parents want and need to choose what’s best for their children. When my son, Christopher, was entering fourth grade, my wife and I had to decide where he would go. We had enough money to send him to a private school and had the option of doing that, sending him to our neighborhood school or sending him to an out-of-boundary school. We chose to send him to Murch, in Upper Northwest, even though we lived in Southeast.
Over the years, Christopher went to public schools, and I am grateful that we could choose the right environment for him. I was fortunate that I could afford the right school for my son. As I have been in years past, I am focused today on those who most need help. We need to give the same opportunity to the District’s low-income parents, and this package would help ensure that all parents in our city have choices about where their children attend school.
It’s a very convincing defense of voucher program, making a point that seems plainly obvious that people do better when given more choices. Could Elenor Holmes Norton be next?