President Obama is once again trying to kill the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which currently awards scholarships between $8,300 up to just over $12,500 so low-income student in the District can attend better private schools. Research spanning years shows that participating students perform better academically and have higher high school graduation rates—all for a fraction of the cost of a D.C. public school, typically around $30,000 per student.
The American Federation for Children rightly criticized the president:
The President’s budget…includes $3.2 million for the D.C. OSP, which solely covers the program evaluation and administrative costs. The President’s $4 trillion budget neglects a demonstrably successful education program specifically designed to help children in low-income D.C. families gain equal access to schools of their parents’ choice.
This budget prevents low-income D.C. families from accessing the educational options that work best for their child,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children. “Yet again, we see the President attempting to phase out this successful program – a program that lives up to the Administration’s stated desire to fund what works in education.”
Since its creation in 2004, the D.C. OSP has received almost 15,000 applications and awarded 5,900 scholarships to children in low-income District of Columbia families. The program has a better than 90 percent graduation rate – 30 percentage points higher than D.C. Public Schools – and nearly 90 percent of those graduates enroll in college.
Investor’s Business Daily was similarly critical in a recent editorial:is is one of the rare cases of a government program that actually works. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, as it is called, began under President George W. Bush in 2003 and has allowed thousands of children to enroll in private and Catholic schools by helping cover tuition costs, $8,000 to $10,000 a year.
Parents love the wide range of educational alternatives it provides their children, especially because many D.C. public schools are notoriously rotten and even dangerous. Research by Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas found that the program raised graduation rates of voucher students by 21 percentage points (from 70% to a whopping 91%).
Every year since he has been president, Barack Obama has tried to shut down this education program," Center for Education Reform President Kara Kerwin says. "He just doesn't support private school choice.
So, while the education establishment and more pet federal programs are lavished with nearly $4 billion in additional funding, porr kids “get cut off,” as The Wall Street Journal put it. But the president’s repeated attempts to end the DC OSP may backfire.
As the National Center for Policy Analysis’ Lloyd Bentsen IV reports:
Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige from President George W. Bush’s first term, is calling for universal school choice just as President Obama has left out funding for the Washington D.C. student voucher program. Paige addressed a crowd in South Carolina saying:
My suggestion is to design our school operations around the principle of universal school choice. Completely remove the power of government to dictate where a child attends school. … Chaining a child to a school that does not serve them well is a miscarriage of justice. … All parties, teachers, parents, students and the public at large would benefit from the innovation and creativity inspired by universal school choice. The current failure of public school reforms cannot be attributed to lack of effort. From the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, school reform was dominated by education theorists, political leaders, researchers, a long list of other interested parties and agencies, governors, corporate America chimed in. But all that effort was for naught. It is indisputable how we are presently working is not working. And continuing as we are presently working seems clearly unwise.
Putting parents in charge of their children’s education rather than leaving it to the whims of politicians and special interest groups is the best path to improving American education for all students.