Friday’s Wall Street Journal highlights the increasing bipartisan support towards charter schools around the country. Due to rapid growth, many states have limited their expansion by placing caps on the number of charter schools. But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested that lifting charter school caps and instituting merit pay are essential steps in receiving grants under the “Race to the Top Fund” created by the Obama Administration’s stimulus bill.
Now even those who previously opposed charter schools are realizing the real hindrance to charter school expansion is special interest power. In the WSJ article, Mayor Tom Menino, a past critic of charters, expressed his frustration with the Boston Teachers Union:
“I’m just tired of it,” he said. “We’re losing kids.”
Democrat Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also seems to understand the urgency of allowing all children the chance to succeed through charter school opportunity. According to the WSJ piece, Gov. Patrick said, “We have been talking about these gaps [in achievement scores between white and minority students] for years while children wait.”
That’s exactly what many citizens, parents, and children in the District of Columbia are saying as well—in this case, about vouchers. For months, Congressional Democrats and the Administration have been working to phase out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools throughout the District. Special interests have exerted pressure to allow the program to expire through lack of funding, even though it has proven successful in increasing reading scores and removing children from unsafe public schools.
It’s refreshing to see growing bipartisan support for charter schools. Now we need to see the same for vouchers. Some Democrats on the D.C. Council have expressed support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Now children and families in the District of Columbia are waiting on the support of their elected leaders at the federal level. Special interest pressure should not prevent Congressional leaders – and President Obama – from supporting a program that works and that has brought hope and change to thousands of D.C. students