This post was co-authored by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says fixing D.C. Public Schools where tens of thousands of children languish each year is “the toughest work in urban education today.” Trouble is, D.C. Public Schools have been among the country’s most expensive, dysfunctional, and dangerous schooling systems for decades. That’s why Duncan, many Members of Congress, and President Obama won’t send own their children there-but they are trying to force hundreds of other people’s children back into those same schools by killing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. A new campaign from D.C. Parents for School Choice called SaveThe216 launched today calls that a “slap in the face.” As one scholarship mother asks, “Congressmen and people in the [Obama] Administration get to choose the best school for their kids, why can’t I?” Despite efforts by Education Secretary Duncan and some Members of Congress spearheaded by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, bi-partisan, bi-cameral efforts are underway to save and even expand it. In May the Preserving D.C. Student Scholarships Act of 2009 was introduced by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA). In July, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), and John Ensign (R-NV) introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which would expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. As Ronald Holassie, an Archbishop Carroll High School student and Opportunity Scholarship recipient, recently testified, “Public schools did not get bad over night, and they’re not going to get better over night. So why not have the Opportunity Scholarship [Program], which will give children… a high quality education they can’t receive right now?” Why indeed.
*Dr. Murray is co-author with Evelyn Stacey of the IWF policy brief, “Down but Not Out in D.C.: Bi-Partisan, Bi-Cameral Efforts to Continue the Opportunity Scholarship Program,” to be released on August 13 at www.iwf.org.