The Washington Post published another excellent editorial highlighting yesterday’s school choice rally in D.C. and the news that the Obama administration now supports allowing students currently in the scholarship program to continue in their provide schools:
Powerful evidence of the worth of the D.C. school voucher program was on display at yesterday’s rally in support of the program. Hundreds of children, outfitted in the uniforms of the private schools they attend through vouchers, sat in rapt attention as one of their own read a poem he had written: “Surrender me from the typical stereotype of a black young man . . . I am a whole different guy.” It is to President Obama’s credit that he wants to uphold the right of fledging poet Carlos Battle and 1,715 other voucher recipients not to have their educations disrupted. We can’t help but wish, though, that other needy students would get the same opportunity of choice.
Just as the rally was breaking up in Freedom Plaza, word came that Mr. Obama would seek to extend the program until all participants in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program graduate from high school, although no new students would be admitted…
This is encouraging news that the Obama administration is waking up to the fact that it would be a disaster to pull children out of schools where they are succeeding and place them back into the low-performing D.C. public school system. But by embracing this compromise, the Obama administration is choosing a contradiction.
Both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have stated that their education policy priorities will be set by funding programs that “work.” Well, does the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program work or not? A federally-mandated evaluation has found that the scholarship program has boosted reading achievement among participating children—kids in the program the longest have nearly 2 years of reading achievement compared to their peers remained in public school. If everyone can agree that this program is clearly working, shouldn’t more students be allowed to participate?
Recognizing this contradiction, the Washington Post presses the Obama administration and Congress to keep an open mind when the program is reviewed next week in Congressional hearings:
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had already scheduled a hearing next week to evaluate the program. Parents, students and a scientist who have studied the program are among those scheduled to testify. It seems that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty declined a chance to testify but will submit a statement, a move that is depressingly typical of his lukewarm support for the program. The hearings need to be conducted with an open mind. If indeed this program is shown to work to the benefit of children, it should be continued. And, not — we submit — just for the ones who are lucky enough to be in it now.
Here are two more pictures from yesterday’s rally: