You know that guy who steps into a picture at the end of an event, making it look like he was there all along? This week, President Obama tried to pretend he wasn’t late to the party by hosting a photo shoot with the five children featured in the education reform documentary, Waiting for Superman. But while he poses with the five poster children of the reform movement, don’t forget how he left 216 kids just like them out in the cold.
Waiting for Superman takes the viewer through the broken public education system, as these five children—most from low-income communities—fight for a chance at a better education by escaping their failing local public schools.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has provided a lifeline for low-income students out of failing and dangerous D.C. public schools—some of the worst in the nation—by giving them the chance to attend a private or charter school of their choice. However, after Obama was elected in fall of 2008, Congress quickly began to dissemble this program. In 2009, 216 students had received scholarships for the upcoming school year, only to have them rescinded shortly thereafter by the Administration. Then, Congress blocked new students from entering the program. Today, the 1,210 that remain are left to wonder if funding will continue beyond 2011.
Despite research showing the success of students in this program, President Obama has done nothing to stand up for them. Evaluations show that 91 percent of students who participate in this program graduate from high school, compared to 70 percent of their peers with similar characteristics. Contrast this with the average D.C. high school graduation rate of 49 percent. Beyond improved academic attainment, these students are able to escape the high rates of violence in D.C. public schools.
As Kevin Chavous, head of the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunity, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month: “All presidents have the bully pulpit. … This president in particular has the power to change hearts and minds instantly.”
Yet President Obama has remained silent while children just like those portrayed in Waiting for Superman could be benefiting from school choice.
While the idea of a superhero coming to save the nation’s schools is far-fetched, it doesn’t take a “man of steel” who can “leap tall buildings in a single bound” to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
For now, D.C. kids are waiting.