• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • School Choice: Created Equal, but Not in Washington, D.C.


    This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), the flagship school choice program in the nation’s capital.

    Since 2004, this program has provided low-income schoolchildren in Washington, D.C., which ranks 51st in the nation in standardized test scores, with scholarships worth $7,500 each to attend private schools of their choice. However, despite the program’s popularity and success—including significantly increased graduation rates and improved reading scores—political maneuvers have managed to jeopardize the future of this program and, along with it, the futures of hundreds of children in the nation’s capital.

    The new legislation, introduced by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) and known as the SOAR Act, would not only reauthorize the scholarship program but also expand it to give more children the opportunity for school choice.

    While many legislators support school choice programs like DCOSP, many others (mostly congressional Democrats) continue to fight it. Yet, ironically, many Members of Congress have benefited from school choice themselves—either personally or through their own children—while denying D.C. students the same benefit.

    For example, Senator Richard Durbin (D–IL), who successfully inserted language into legislation in 2009 to phase out the DCOSP, not only attended private school himself but also sends his children to private school. Moreover, a Heritage Foundation study found that nearly 40 percent of the Members of the 111th Congress sent a child to private school. Nationally, only 11 percent of all American students are enrolled in private school.

    And let’s not forget that President Obama himself was a scholarship recipient as a child. This is what gave him the opportunity to attend the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii. On top of this, his daughters attend the upscale Sidwell Friends School in D.C. If he had no choice but to send his girls to public school, they would be students of the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, where only 45 percent of students meet proficiency levels in reading, and 40 percent meet them in math. (While these proficiency levels are low, sadly, they are much higher than those at many other D.C. public schools.)

    Additionally, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended private school himself, and when he came from Chicago to D.C. after being appointed Secretary, his family chose to live in Arlington, Virginia, “where good schools are assumed.”

    But how many families have the kind of options for their children that Obama and Duncan do?

    Unfortunately, today school choice is mostly limited to those who have means. And if DCOSP is eliminated, school choice will be even more limited. Yet for DCOSP students and so many others like them, school choice has meant not only greater control over their education but, more importantly, greater control over their futures.

    Instead of closing the doors of opportunity for children, as the Obama Administration and some Members of Congress have attempted to do these last two years, now is the time to open it wider for more of the nation’s students.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to School Choice: Created Equal, but Not in Washington, D.C.

    1. George Colgrove VA says:

      Does this legislation come with federal funds and a corresponding federal bureaucrasy? Or is it simply a framework being put upon DC? If it is the later, I suuport this. If it comes with federal funding, then we need to pass. DC gets funds to provide school choice and the rest of the nation does not? I think a framework that fortifies school choice with local funds is a great idea and can begin the process to create a fully competative school system – which should be the goal for educational excellence. The goal should also end ALL federal involvment – funding and administrative – in our school systems – preschool through college.

    2. West Texan says:

      I sort of agree with George. DC is in a unique position as it's neither a state nor has counties. I don't know about other states, but Texas provides money to struggling inner-city and small rural school districts. For this reason, states sharing a small burden to help these DC kids is fair.

    3. Andrew, Washington D says:

      Per usual, Heritage has failed to lay out the entire issue. I am sure that it is not simply a case of Democrats looking to deprive inner-city DC kids with a good education. Instead of presenting facts, Heritage has simply written a post about the schooling of DC policy-makers who happen to reside in a higher income bracket. I am sure that if you were to survey the same decision among other Americans who reside in the same income bracket, their decisions would be similar. Who among us would not send their kids to the best schools possible. How about laying out the whole story Heritage without cherry-picking meaningless statistics in an overtly partisan manner.

    4. Pingback: School Choice: Created Equal, but Not in Washington, D.C. | Big Propaganda

    5. McLaughlin, KY says:

      Instead of providing opportunities for "hundreds of children", why is no one concerned about those who are left to struggle in the public schools? Do we not have an obligation to to improve ALL schools for ALL students? Equal opportunity seems to come into play here. I speak as a school board member in a district far removed from DC, but one of our mission statements is: "We believe all students can learn".

      I speak not as a Republican nor a Democrat; only as a concerned individual.

    6. Pingback: Must Know Headlines 3.29.2011 — ExposeTheMedia.com

    7. Dan, Dallas says:

      To Andrew in DC: Over the past year or more, Heritage has covered the DCOSP in detail, including support of the movie, "Waiting for Superman". The point is, politicians who have the resources to choose the best schools for their own children, took away that same privilege to those with no means to do the same.

    8. West Texan says:

      What HF rightly points out is having an opportunity to choose. Low income DC kids are all too often resigned to failing public schools, the same schools elitist policy makers and teacher union bosses scratch each others' back over. Why should these low income DC kids not have similar opportunities as those whose parents can afford better scholastic choices?

    9. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Even if the workable solution cost half as much, these idiots will cling to the Public Schools. That's where you get your Socialization, where you learn to be Anti American. If it cost one third as much as the failed School System and did ten times better, the Progressives wouldn't pass Vouchers. "Idiot" isn't name calling, this idiocy proves it.

    10. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      George, it is spelled "federal bureau crazy" these days. If it ain't crazy? It ain't Government.

    11. Spiritof76, NH says:

      All those Democrats that vote against the DC choice must be deemed racists, using the rhetoric of the socialists and communists of this country.

    12. HawkWatcher, Mi. says:

      Where's the cherry picking, Andrew? 11% of us send our kids to private school, in case you missed that fact in the article. Nearly 40% of the 111th Congress sent a kid to private school. You should ask: Why do so many mean-spirited Democrats want to deny the same opportunity for regular D.C. kids whose parents can't afford private schools?

      Perhaps Andrew could also enlighten us as to exactly what "Per usual, Heritage has failed to lay out the entire issue" refers to. Maybe some specific instances of the alleged omissions could be provided. Without that inclusion, your slurs are nothing but gutless bluster, easily dismissed as unwanted flatulence.

      I hope the program can survive.

    13. Pingback: VIDEO: Speaker Boehner Makes the Case for School Choice in D.C. | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    14. Pingback: VIDEO: Speaker Boehner Makes the Case for School Choice in D.C. | Big Propaganda

    15. Pingback: United States Of America: Land Of The Rothschilds, Where Free Thinking Independent Children Are Left Behind! | Political Vel Craft

    16. Pingback: Morning Bell: An Opportunity to Throw Kids A Lifeline | Big Propaganda

    17. Pingback: The Teleprompter of the U.S. Speaks + More « PA Pundits – International

    18. Ray Czahar, Californ says:

      It has always amazed me that those who say they represent the interest of black amercians take away the one opportunity that can change the outcome for many black childern: a Vouchered School Choice program. Two good examples are Jessie Jackson, whose childern never attended public schools and of course the current president, who sends his childern to private schools. That old definition remains true: "Hypocracy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue". And these hypocrites get a lot of tribute from the teachers union.


    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.