Since 2000, The Heritage Foundation has surveyed Members of Congress to determine whether they had exercised private-school choice by ever sending a child to private school. The results of 2009’s survey is particularly relevant this year since Congress approved legislative action that threatens to phase out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a program that has proven to improve reading scores for 1,700 low-income students.
The Washington Post editorialized on our findings:
A new survey shows that 38 percent of members of Congress have sent their children to private school. About 20 percent themselves attended private school, nearly twice the rate of the general public. Nothing wrong with those numbers; no one should be faulted for personal decisions made in the best interests of loved ones. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if Congress extended similar consideration to low-income D.C. parents desperate to keep their sons and daughters in good schools?
The gap between what Congress practices and what it preaches was best illustrated by the Heritage Foundation’s analysis of a recent vote to preserve the program. The measure was defeated by the Senate 58 to 39; it would have passed if senators who exercised school choice for their own children had voted in favor. Alas, the survey doesn’t name names, save for singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), architect of the language that threatens the program, for sending his children to private school and attending private school himself.
No doubt there are those who would argue that personal choices should not dictate decisions of policymakers. Fair enough, but where is the objective examination of this program, a rational discussion of the pros and cons? Where is the humanity of not wanting to hurt children who won’t be able to continue in their current schools if the scholarship program is eliminated? No one has been able to offer any evidence of the drawbacks of this small, local program, while evidence of its benefits has been mounting.