If you were a child in the District of Columbia school system (51st in state rankings for academic achievement, first for school violence), you and your parents probably greeted the election of Barack Obama with great joy. If someone had suggested to you then that the president would attempt to torpedo the scholarship program that permits some District kids to attend the private schools of their choice, you might have thought you were hearing racist smears.
But that is what happened. As he did in previous years, President Obama has once again attempted to zero out funding in 2013 for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a small federal outlay that provides scholarships to some 1,600 students to attend private or parochial schools. Since the program's inception in 2004, more than 10,000 families have applied to participate. The average income of OSP participants is $24,000.
The administration claims that it "strongly opposes" the OSP because it "has not yielded improved student achievement." But as the Black Alliance for Educational Options reports:
"The most recent federal evaluation of the OSP showed that students who used their scholarships had a 91 percent graduation rate -- 21 percent higher than those who were offered but did not use scholarships and more than 30 points higher than D.C. public school students. The program has also produced gains in reading."
The president delivers energetic speeches about the "knowledge economy" and the urgent need to improve education for all of America's kids. He's been troubled and adamant about the problem of school dropouts: In a 2010 speech, for example, the president declared: "This is a problem we cannot afford to accept or ignore. The stakes are too high -- for our children, for our economy, for our country. It's time for all of us to come together ... to end America's dropout crisis." But the program in D.C. that cuts dropout rates by 30 points? He's standing in the schoolhouse door saying, "No exit."