In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Dr. Suess teaches children that even the most cold-hearted among us can find good in their hearts, especially during the holidays. Despite a series of recent setbacks, hundreds of low-income kids in Washington, DC are holding out hope that the Grinches on Capitol Hill who are working to kill the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program will have a similar change of heart.
Last week, the House and Senate approved an Omnibus spending bill that includes legislative language that effectively ends the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which has helped thousands of low-income children attend private schools in the nation’s capital (and which has been found by a federally-mandated evaluation to improve participating students’ reading achievement). The legislation will prevent any new children from receiving scholarships—putting the program on course to die slowly over time.
Opponents of the program (including Senator Dick Durbin, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the White House) have sought to find a “compromise” that avoids revoking scholarships from D.C. students currently attending private schools. But it is becoming increasingly clear that no such compromise is possible. What Congress and the administration are currently doing is killing the program. It will force students currently receiving scholarships to return to DC’s low-performing and often dangerous public school system.
How is this happening? First, the uncertainty around the program’s future has led the non-profit Washington Scholarship Program (which administers the program) to announce that it could no longer afford to process and award scholarships in 2010. At this point, it’s uncertain who will take over this responsibility. Second, a number of parochial schools in the District may be forced to close down, now that it’s clear that enrollments will continue to decline as the program slowly dies. As a results, hundreds (if not thousands) of kids attending these schools may be forced to return to the public school system.
That’s the grim reality facing many D.C. families this holiday season. But as fans of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” surely know, it’s never too late to do the right thing. House Conservatives, led by Congressman Burgess, are giving Congressional opponents a second chance giving these children a quality education. They introduced legislation to amend the Omnibus to strip out the provision ending the Opportunity Scholarship program.
Time will tell whether the Grinches on Capitol Hill seize this opportunity to reverse their unfortunate position and provide hope of a better future to thousands of disadvantaged kids. In the meantime, the D.C. chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options is raising private funds to provide scholarships to D.C. kids who have recently been denied scholarships by the Obama administration (www.SaveDCKids.blogspot.com).