President Obama last week delivered a rousing address to Congress meant to inspire hope in the hearts of anxious Americans. It was an excellent speech. But the next day, Democratic leaders in Congress responded in a manner that applies hope in all the wrong places – taking hope away from disadvantaged children in our nation’s capital, and giving new hope to representatives of Washington’s pork-barrel industry in the form of 9,000 unscrutinized taxpayer-funded earmarks.
If ever there were a case of mixed-up priorities in Washington, this is it. Tucked into the $410 billion “omnibus” spending bill passed by the House of Representatives on February 25 is a provision designed to terminate the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the school choice program established with bipartisan support in 2004 that is providing a glimmer of hope to thousands of students and families in the District of Columbia.
More than 2,000 students have been able to attend one of the D.C. area non-public schools through the program since it was established, and more than 7,200 have applied for scholarships, demonstrating the overwhelming public demand in the District among parents for new educational options for their children.
The D.C. opportunity scholarship program is creating greater opportunities and transforming lives.
“[The OSP] gives me the choice to, freedom to attend other schools than D.C. public schools,” one thankful parent told researchers from the University of Arkansas, which conducted an in-depth study of the program’s performance. “I’m not really badgering or bashing the system, but right now, well at the time, I just didn’t feel that I wanted to put him in D.C. public school and I had the opportunity to take one of the scholarships, so therefore, I can afford it and I’m glad that I did do that.”
In a video entitled “Voices of School Choice” posted on the website of the education reform-minded Heritage Foundation, local students participating in the OSP tell President Obama first-hand about the importance of the program, and implore him to keep it alive.