President Obama’s latest budget request was completely rejected by Congress, failing to receive even a single vote. Yet Obama’s budget—universally rejected by Congress—is taking educational opportunity away from low-income children in the nation’s capital.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request cuts funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a private school choice program for low-income children in Washington. This is despite his agreement last spring to reauthorize the program.
As Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) wrote on Tuesday:
The president inexplicably chose to zero out funding for the program in his budget proposal, contradicting the very law he signed. Based on the president’s budget, the Department of Education has said it intends to cap enrollment in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which also contradicts the law.
Although the DCOSP remains in place via the reauthorization, in yet another end-run around Congress, the Administration has been warning the nonprofit organization that administers the DCOSP that funding may not be available next year. To maintain scholarships for the current 1,615 DCOSP students, the nonprofit is being forced to limit the number of new students allowed to enter the program.
“House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) met last week with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to urge him to lift what they see as an artificial cap on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program,” The Washington Post said in an editorial. Despite their appeals, “the administration insists that a cap is necessary because it’s unclear whether the program will be funded next year.” Of course, as the Post notes, this is “a rich argument, since any uncertainty about funding is entirely due to administration actions.”
Although Congress will appropriate money for the program, according to Boehner, because of the cap “many students will unnecessarily be deprived of scholarships” because “when the money becomes available, it will be too late.”
But the opportunity for a child’s education can’t wait. Too many students in Washington, D.C.—and around the nation—are failing to receive a quality education. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has proven to be successful, with students graduating at significantly higher rates than their peers in D.C. public schools. Depriving children of scholarships means less chance of graduating and thus decreased opportunity for a promising future.
Unfortunately, rather than considering the best interest of these students, the Administration is choosing to once again play politics with their futures. It’s time the President stood up for the children of D.C.