This morning, families, students and community members gathered at the Capitol to show their support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which is currently being phased-out by the Obama administration. Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins hosted a press conference to discuss the impact of the successful program, which has greatly improved the academic achievement of participating students, ensured their safety while at school, and maintained strong support among District residents.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has helped 3,300 low-income, primarily African American and Latino students gain access to better schools, works simply but wonderfully: it gives low-income parents the opportunity to send their children to safe and effective private schools in the District.
As a result of the scholarships and their own drive to succeed, wonderful children like Tiffany Dunston have been able to overcome once-insurmountable personal obstacles and do great things. Tiffany went from fighting to learn in a failing public school to — with the help of an Opportunity Scholarship — becoming the valedictorian at Archbishop Carroll High School. Now, she’s thriving at a great university. Killing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program decreases the possibility that another child like Tiffany will achieve her potential. Sadly, Obama’s FY2011 budget funds the OSP at a mere $9.4 million, which the president expects “will be the final request for federal funding to support the Opportunity Scholarship program.”
During the press conference, Senator Lieberman called the decision to phase out the scholarships a “tragedy and an outrage.” Lieberman stated:
If the president and his administration are consistent about supporting programs that work, they should support the OSP…this program has not only changed lives, but I believe it has saved lives…If Dr. King were here today, he’d be fighting his heart out for the OSP.
Lieberman has long been a supporter of school choice. Last year, in a Congressional hearing on the future of the D.C. OSP, the senator left no doubt in the minds of those in attendance as to why the program is being phased-out. Special interest groups like the NEA have worked tirelessly to ensure school choice is not an option for D.C. families.
During today’s press conference, Senator Collins reported that 86 percent of children in the Opportunity Scholarship program will have to return to District schools that are failing. Is the president, who inspired millions of people with a message of “hope” and “change” – and who, as a child, attended private school thanks to a scholarship – now so wedded to narrow-minded special interests that he’s willing to sacrifice the futures of poor children who live just blocks from the White House? We hope not.
Co-Authored by Virginia Walden Ford and Lindsey Burke. Virginia Walden Ford is the Executive Director of D.C. Parents for School Choice.