This week, the White House signaled that it would prevent Congress from ending the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, at least for participating children.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Wednesday: “It wouldn’t make sense to disrupt the education of those that are in that system,” Gibbs said in discussing the president’s thinking. “And I think we’ll work with Congress to ensure that a disruption like that doesn’t take place.” This follows a similar statement from Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week.
Reading between the lines, it’s becoming clear where the Obama administration stands: they support allowing current scholarship recipients to continue at their private schools. But they will likely oppose allowing new children to enter into the program—setting the program on course to wither away over time.
While this would be a better result than the worst case scenario (taking scholarships away from children who are happy with their schools), it should still be considered a major disappointment for D.C .families and everyone who believes that families should be able to choose the best school for their kids. The results would ensure that thousands of current and future D.C. students attend low-performing and often-violent public schools.
Consider the wise words of 3rd-grader De’Andre, who is currently using an opportunity scholarship to attend private school. In his testimonial on VoicesOfSchoolChoice.org, De’Andre tells President Obama how thankful he is for his scholarship:
I love to learn and I will continue this with your help by keeping the scholarship going. I have benefited from it greatly. And I want my sisters to have a chance to use it also.
A compromise that allows current students to stay in the program would avoid the PR nightmare for the administration of seeing low-income kids pulled out of private schools, including the classrooms of Sidwell Friends where the President’s children attend school. But we shouldn’t forget about all of the other children in the D.C. school system that would benefit from the opportunity to attend a school of their parents’ choice.
In D.C. public schools, statistics show that a student is as likely to report “being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property” as they are to score “proficient” on the NAEP reading test in 8th grade. All D.C. families deserve the power to choose the right school for their children.