Proponents of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program and families currently in the program have reason to be frustrated over Congress setting the course toward its elimination. But as Amanda Carpenter reports in today’s Washington Times, they’ve also found a “strong ally” in the fight for school choice – Juan Williams of Fox News:
Mr. Williams, who is also senior national correspondent for National Public Radio, hosted an event at the National Press Club on Friday to promote a short film produced by the think tank about the recent decision to cancel the short-lived D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.
On Friday, Williams joined former D.C. city council member Kevin Chavous at the National Press Club for an event on the future of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Mr. Chavous was part of a panel of experts that included Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice and Heritage’s Dan Lips. Members of the media enjoyed a special screening of Let Me Rise: The Struggle to Save School Choice in the Nation’s Capital, and also had the opportunity to speak with scholarship parents.
The scholarships, which were handed out beginning in 2004, gave money to D.C. students toward attending a school of their choice. But Congress revoked funding for the program last year, forcing many disadvantaged minority students back into failing public schools.
Mr. Williams and his fellow panelists at the event expressed disappointment in President Obama for permitting the program to expire and faulted teachers unions that typically oppose school choice, for exercising too much political influence in that process.
‘I don’t understand how politics would be blind to helping people,’ Mr. Williams said, adding about Mr. Obama that ‘we all know his personal story and of his mother exercising school choice.’
President Obama did indeed exercise school choice as a child. Thanks to a scholarship, Obama attended the prestigious Punahu School in Hawaii. Obama is not alone in enjoying school choice for himself and his children while denying that opportunity to others. Nearly 40 percent of members of Congress have sent a child to private school. Yet, in eliminating the D.C. OSP, Congress has failed to support the same choice for D.C. children.
It seems the President thought his administration could quietly phase-out the popular program without repercussions. But the decision is already having a significant impact on the lives of D.C. children. Several parochial schools in the District are already reporting that they may have to close down as their enrollment numbers decline due to the OSP being slowly phased-out – effectively sending those children back to the failing and unsafe D.C. public schools. This uncertainty has also led to the Washington Scholarship Fund – the organization that administers and oversees the OSP – to announce that it will no longer be able to manage the program.
While the negative impact of the administration’s decision has been enormous – and felt widely throughout the D.C. community and the country at large – Americans for Limited Government reports that Jill Biden, one of President Obama’s chief spokespersons on education, has somehow missed this whole story. ALG writes:
“Dr. Biden, while promoting a national education initiative on behalf of the Obama Administration at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, D.C., said she had not ‘followed’ the elimination of the popular program in 2009. When asked if she supported the program’s elimination, Dr. Biden said, ‘You know, I really haven’t followed it.’
‘I’ve been really busy,’ she added.”
Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government, stated:
“It is simply inexcusable that Dr. Biden, a prominent education policy spokesperson for the White House, is completely ignorant of the elimination of the D.C. school choice program. It was her boss who scuttled the program – while sending his own children to private schools, of course.”
The Obama administration hopes that by slowly phasing-out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the impact of the decision will be minimized. But 1,715 children and their families clearly see that they are being denied a bright educational future by an administration that promised to do “what works” for them.