Last month, House Democrats rejected a measure introduced by Republicans to keep the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) in the federal budget past its 2010 expiration date. Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that no additional DC school children would be introduced into the voucher program because of the possibility Congress would withhold funding.
This news has disappointed school choice advocates who point to Obama’s openness to school vouchers and the administration’s vocal commitment to improving the nation’s education system. Obama’s two daughters attend a school were two underprivileged DC school children will have to leave if the voucher funding is pulled.
“It does not make sense if there is a real chance that the program might win new funding as parents, educators and politicians rally to undo the ‘bigotry of low expectations’ and open doors of opportunity — wherever they exist — for more low-income students,” said Juan Williams, FOX News Political Contributor, on the FOX Forum blog.
Obama first indicated that his support for voucher programs was dependent upon whether or not there was demonstrable evidence that children would benefit. In the DCOSP program, test scores of voucher recipients had a reading advantage of 3.1 months ahead of non-voucher recipients, and the equivalent of 3.7 months of total additional learning, according to a report by the Heritage Foundation.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Obama administration had sat on test results that showed vouchers were working as Congress and Obama cut funding for the DC voucher program. The National Education Foundation and other unions have lobbied heavily against voucher programs in DC and elsewhere, pouring money into Democratic campaigns.
Andrew Coulson, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, added up the total cost for per-pupil education in the DC public school system in a recent Washington Times editorial. He divided the total spending of DC public schools - $1.29 billion - by 48,646 students, and came out with a total of $26,555 per student.
“To put that number in context, it's about $2,000 more per student than the average tuition actually paid at Sidwell Friends, the prestigious school President Obama's daughters attend. And it is more than fourfold the $5,928 average tuition charged last year by the private schools serving voucher students,” he wrote.