At least two students, Sarah and James Parker, were able to attend Sidwell Friends -- the school the Obamas chose for their daughters -- thanks to the scholarships. The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn quoted their mother, who noted that at the public school her kids would be obliged to attend without the scholarships, fewer than half of the students are proficient at reading or math. "I once took Sarah to Roosevelt High School," Deborah Parker recounted, "to see its metal detectors and security guards. I wanted to scare her into appreciation for what she has at Sidwell." Too bad she couldn't take Obama on the same tour.
The last time Obama, who likes to style himself the voice of the 99 percent, attempted to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program, it was saved by Speaker of the House John Boehner -- just another white Republican who cares nothing for blacks and Hispanics. During tense budget negotiations in 2011, Boehner succeeded in getting the president's approval for a five-year reauthorization of the $20 million program.
Now the president is proposing, as Democrats always do, to increase funding for the Department of Education by 2.5 percent, taking it to $70 billion and once again to eliminate funding for the OSP, moving those funds back to the public schools.
It's easy to see why the president wants to double down on the current system. Ever increasing expenditures have done so much for the kids of the District of Columbia. The District now spends $18,000 per student. More than 60 percent of District fourth graders cannot read at grade level. Only 14 percent of eighth graders are proficient in reading. The Washington Post reports that in math, the District has, "by a wide margin, the nation's highest proportion of fourth and eighth graders in the 'below basic' category -- and the lowest in proficient/advanced." During the 2007/2008 academic year, police received more than 3,500 calls from public schools, 900 of them for violent incidents.
The overwhelming majority of parents who've been able to take advantage of Opportunity Scholarships are happy with them, along with more than 70 percent of District residents generally. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who has joined Speaker Boehner in attempting to secure funding for the program, said "If Dr. King were alive today, he'd be fighting his heart out for the OSP."
But Dr. King is not alive, and the first black president, whose daughters are in no danger of losing their spots at Sidwell, has turned his back.