In the words of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, “Improved education is offering a hope of narrowing the gap between the less and more skilled workers, of fending off the prior prospect of a society divided between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ of a class society in which an educated elite provided welfare for a permanent class of unemployables.”
Suggestion #15: Build on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Without question, Washington DC has some of the worst schools in the country. Unfortunately, failing schools disadvantage their students for life – and despite the best efforts of reformers like former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, change doesn’t happen overnight.
In order to help children trapped in the system in the short-term while reforms were being implemented, a limited school choice program – the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program – was created in 2004 to help defray the cost of attendance at private schools for low-income children in DC. Over the past few years, thousands of students have been given scholarships to attend schools of their choice (check out this moving video from the Heritage Foundation to meet a few!) Alas, the program was quietly killed by the Obama Administration – leaving families with the prospect of a return to unsafe and underperforming schools.
Last night at the State of the Union, House Speaker John Boehner invited students and teachers from the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program to sit in his box – a gracious gesture, and one that reassured school choice advocates that the 112th Congress will take education reform seriously. But while it looks like a reauthorization of the program is imminent – why should we stop in DC?
Congress should consider expanding school choice by encouraging the use of private scholarship programs, tuition tax credits and deductions, and directing states to rescind geography-based enrollment requirements. Every child in the country deserves a quality, safe education – and if a public school can’t provide that, families need to be able to access one elsewhere.