Friday, May 22, 2009

Parents, kids, and citizens turn out to save a successful and embattled program for low-income students.

On May 6, 2009, concerned parents, students, and others gathered in Washington, D.C.'s Freedom Plaza. They came to voice support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school-voucher program authorized by Congress in 2004 (as the seat of the federal government, the District is overseen by Congress). The program gives 1,700 students up to $7,500 to attend whatever school their parents choose.

The program is wildly popular with parents and children—there are four applicants for every available slot—and a recent Department of Education study found that participants do significantly better than their public school peers.

Yet working with congressional Democrats and despite President Barack Obama's pledge to put politics and ideology aside in education, the Obama administration effectively killed the program through a backdoor legislative move. "[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars," says the president. "It's not whether it's liberal or conservative, but whether it works."

Shortly after last week's rally, President Obama said that he would allow students currently enrolled in the program to finish up through high school, but that no new students would be allowed to enter the program. Thus, a president who exercises school choice himself, has consigned thousands of low-income students to attend massively underperforming D.C. public schools.

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