As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama gained a lot of respect by promising to ‘fund what works in education, regardless of ideology.’ This week, he failed to live up to his promise. It seems that as President, Obama forgot his promise, and decided to support unions and lobbyists rather than what works, except in the case of his own family, that is.
President Obama, through his Administration, just issued an official announcement opposing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that has been working miracles for low income kids. Rather than funding what works in education, regardless of ideology, President Obama just proved to be unable to provide anything resembling leadership.
The reason for rejecting the program, supposedly, is that it doesn’t work for “all students.” By that weak piece of logic, the education system should therefore be shut down, because it doesn’t work for all students. The health system, the Congress and the White House should also be shut down because they don’t work for all Americans.
This Administration announcement has been criticized by African American and Hispanic leaders, who say the Opportunity Scholarship Program is a very successful school voucher initiative in the District of Columbia, that serves low-income children.
Kevin P. Chavous, chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and Julio Fuentes, president of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options are not happy. They say the Obama Administration is hypocritical, because it is against choice and education reform for children other than their own.
Obama’s own education was supported by scholarships, so he could attend private schools. Then as a parent, he exercised school choice for his own daughters. But when it comes to other children in Washington, D.C. – most of whom are African American and Hispanic – the president does not support the choice of high-quality opportunities for low-income families.
“President Barack Obama’s opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is hypocritical and it is wrong. If President Obama continues his fight against school choice and education reform, history will long remember him as someone who failed to stand up to richly funded special interest groups and, in the process, denied low-income and minority children access to better schools. As leaders in the African American and Hispanic communities, we call on the president to reverse his position – not as a matter of ideology, but as a matter of social justice.”
– Kevin P. Chavous, Julio Fuentes
Obama’s opposition to the program is especially puzzling because the program yields a 91 percent student graduation rate for children who use their vouchers. This is 30 percentage points higher than graduation rates for students in D.C.’s public schools. Yet the administration says “Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.”
You can twist statistics any way you like, to get the results you want to see, but what you can’t do is change the results these low-income children have achieved since using the voucher program.
The program also educates children at less than half of the per-child cost of the D.C. Public Schools. This one fact most likely irks the special interests dictating policy to the Obama Administration.
Parents who use the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program say they are overwhelmingly satisfied with it. The program helps public schools to innovate, and more than 28 percent of schools have reported innovations as a result of using the program. Students also gain additional months of learning in reading.
The Black Alliance for Educational Options says the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be a model for the nation, but instead, it is on life support, thanks to the actions and inaction of President Obama.
School choice around the country is showing great improvements in education. For example, in Louisiana, 93 percent of parents who send their children to private schools said they are satisfied with their children’s education. In Florida, student achievement has increased and many public schools have been helped to improve. Wisconsin students participating in a voucher program are graduating at 18 percent higher than in traditional public schools.
The black and hispanic leaders are upset with Obama and his administration because President Obama seems not to care that low-income children are confined to schools that fail, year after year after year. Rather than using the successful program as a model to improve failing schools, Obama chooses to shut it down and send the low-income kids back to their failing public schools, that cost much more to run.
Although there were brickbats for the Bush administration approach to education, after more than two years of Obama education, the dropout rate for African American and Hispanic children has remained exactly the same. In addition, more than two dozen other countries continue to outpace America in math and literacy.
More money has been spent on education by the Obama administration than any other in the nation’s history, but the results have not changed. Real results, as are found in the school choice programs like the OSP, simply cannot be bought, say the black and hispanic leaders.
President Obama’s opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program makes no sense, unless you consider the special interests that are already receiving the extra money funneled into education. That much is clear in the closing sentence of the statement “the Administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.” Imagine if that sentence was written before Obama received his scholarships.
D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has helped congressional democrats systematically reduce funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program and prevented new children from joining. Norton, known for her well-reasoned arguments, appears to have ignored facts, according to Kevin P. Chavous. The popular scholarship program was originally championed by city officials, all of them Democrats, and almost 9,000 families applied to participate.
President Obama calls dropping out, “quitting on your country.” The president has effectively quit on the low income children in D.C., making them victims of a poorly-managed system. His own family can make choices.
Learn more about the Black Alliance for Educational Options, at www.BAEO.org
Learn more aboutthe Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, at www.HCREO.com