Today the House of Representatives takes up a bill to reauthorize DC’s school voucher program, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program provides scholarships to low-income students to attend participating private schools in the Washington DC area and is supported by a majority of the DC City Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser. However, once again, the Obama Administration is putting the brakes on a bill with bipartisan support that gives money to DC’s neediest children.
If you’re unaware, the program was enacted in 2003 and in 2009 Obama cut all funding and tried to phase it out. In 2011, in a bipartisan move between then Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman, the program was reintroduced as the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act. This restored funding to the program and allowed new students to participate. While the program has been heralded as a success and proponents have argued that it advances the President’s “stated goal of increasing graduation rates and closing the black-white achievement gap”, the Obama administration continues to restate its opposition to the program.
House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the president for trying to "undermine or end" the program over the years. "They tried to avoid implementing the law. They tried to cut funding. They tried to cap enrollment. They tried everything," he wrote in a post on his blog. "Will the president stand in the way of these kids, or will he realize he was wrong and work with us to get this done?"
Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for the American Federation for Children stated "We just find it disappointing that the president, members of the administration – many of whom send their kids to some of the best schools in D.C. – want to deny a program that gives some of the most disadvantaged kids" a better education.” Frendewey also criticized the administration for not spending the full amount authorized each year on enrolling kids in the program, which has kept the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program smaller than it could be. "When they say it's only helping a handful of kids, it's because they've artificially been dwindling the number of kids," Frendewey said.
Interestingly enough, President Obama’s two daughters attend the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC., a prestigious private school.
Children do not learn in a one-size-fits-all box. That is why there are programs, like the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. These programs give parents and children the choice to learn in an environment that works best for them. President Obama touted the words “Hope” and “Change” when he ran for office. Let’s pray he gives these students the hope and change they need to succeed.