As the fight to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program heats up, Rep. Jose Serrano, Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that regulates appropriations to the District of Columbia, is attempting to justify his opposition to the successful scholarships. In a Washington Post oped last week, Serrano writes:
“When I assumed the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal payments to the District, I announced that I was not interested in being a second mayor. Toward that end, I have worked to minimize Congress’s interference in D.C. affairs by steadily removing harmful, intrusive social policy directives from annual spending bills. But unfortunately, time and again one issue has dragged me into that unwanted ‘mayoral’ role: school vouchers.”
If Serrano is concerned about the existence of “harmful, intrusive social policy directives,” there are indeed many ineffective federal programs that should worry him. However, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is not one of them. Serrano is trying to end a program that works – scholarships that are providing a lifeline out of underperforming and unsafe D.C. public schools for low-income children.
Federally-mandated evaluations have shown that the children who received vouchers are reading far ahead of their peers who remained in public school. And, the Opportunity Scholarships have strong local support and strong parental support.
Mayor Fenty has voiced his support for the voucher program, as have a majority of the D.C. City Council members. And, with overwhelming local support – more than 70 percent of D.C. residents support the program’s continuation – Rep. Serrano can rest assured that continued funding for the OSP is representing the interests of District families.
Why end it the successful scholarship program? If Serrano is bent on ending the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program – a federal program that does work – shouldn’t he be equally adamant about ending the many federal programs that don’t work?
Serrano concludes begrudgingly, agreeing that those currently in the program should stay:
“I accept the fact that Congress will have to continue to fund the children who are in the Opportunity Scholarship Program. I understand that, since Congress started them down this road, we must follow through on our obligation.”
District residents are trying desperately to ensure that a policy allowing low-income children to attend a safe and effective school remains in tact.
Before further maligning the successful scholarships, Serrano should watch Let Me Rise: The Struggle to Save School Choice in the Nation’s Capitol. Perhaps hearing the voices of the children whose lives have been changed thanks to the OSP will make him reconsider his anti-choice position.