We Can’t Quit on D.C. Children

Virginia Walden Ford /

Writing in the Washington Post over the weekend, self-proclaimed school choice supporter Jay Matthews argued that its time to give up on the D.C. school voucher program:

My problems with what is formally known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program are political and cultural, not moral. The program provides up to $7,500 a year for private-school tuition for poor children at an annual cost of about $12 million. Vouchers help such kids, but not enough of them. The vouchers are too at odds with the general public view of education. They don’t have much of a future.

Mr. Matthews goes on to explain that the political opposition to vouchers is just too strong, pointing to recent defeats in ballot initiatives. But keen observer of American politics like Mr. Matthews should recognize that serious change takes time, especially when powerful interest groups are fighting to protect the status quo.

Here in D.C., and in other cities, voucher programs are overwhelmingly popular. Just look at the long lines for scholarships whenever they are offered. In D.C., four children have applied for each available scholarship.

Why might that be? As a parent organizer, I believe it’s because parents recognize that their children deserve much better than District’s generally low-performing and often dangerous public schools. School choice gives all families, regardless of their background, the power to give their children a safe and effective education. Even if the political winds are blowing against us, we simply can’t afford to give up in the fight to ensure that all children can get a good education.