House Speaker John Boehner’s (R–OH) commitment to school choice and his support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) was chronicled in The Washington Post on Tuesday.
“I just think it’s horrendous that you’ve got one of the worst school districts in the country right here in the District of Columbia,” Boehner stated. The Speaker went on to say: “Competition makes everyone better. One of the problems with education in America is that there’s not enough competition in the K through 12 arena.” Boehner understands what intellectual heavyweights like economist Milton Friedman knew: Competition, fostered through school choice, lifts all boats. Friedman explained in 2005:
Full exercise of choice would invigorate the public school system; would improve it. Competition always has that effect … competition is a way in which both public and private schools can be required to satisfy their customers. In which the bad private schools will fail and the bad public schools will fail. So the fundamental assumption is simple: that competition is better than monopoly.
The DCOSP has put detractors in the position of having to defend the poor performance of the government school system.
But most importantly, the DCOSP has empowered parents and limited bureaucratic and government control over education. Many low-income parents who were previously unable to access a safe and effective education for their children found themselves in a position to go directly to a private school they felt would best meet the needs of their children. Parents were now empowered to do what so many families who can afford it so often do: They were able to go from school to school, inspecting the premises, inquiring about the school’s academic record and interviewing principals and teachers.
Low-income parents in D.C. were no longer at the whim of the government school monopoly.
That is, until the last Congress, at the direction of Senator Richard Durbin (D–IL), caved into pressure from education unions and began phasing out the successful voucher program. Despite its proven track-record of increasing academic achievement and significantly improving graduation rates, 216 children had scholarships yanked from their hands by Members of Congress beholden to education unions and the failed status quo. Thousands more had their educational futures placed in jeopardy.
Boehner, by contrast, has made school choice a priority and has introduced a bill to reauthorize the DCOSP—the only bill the Speaker will sponsor this year. The contrast in philosophies could not be clearer: empower parents through school choice or condemn low-income children to underperforming government schools.
Empowering parents through school choice has many benefits. Thanks to the DCOSP, parents are not only able to choose the school that best meets their children’s needs; the program also ensures that money is spent more efficiently. The opportunity scholarships provide a far more efficient way of spending education dollars by empowering parents and taxpayers, not bureaucrats. To stand by and allow special interest groups like the education unions to kill off the only successful federal education program ever created would be a travesty unparalleled in school policy.