April 14, 2009


Education, By Any Means (Anthony A. Williams and Kevin P. Chavous, April 14, 2009, Washington Post)

The reality of our children's deficits demands much more than we have given them. Platitudes, well-crafted speeches and the latest three-to-five-year reform plan aren't good enough. We must find ways to educate every child now, by any means necessary.

It was that spirit that led us, as elected officials of the District in 2003, to promote the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program, which provides scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools, is part of the three-sector initiative that annually provides $50 million in federal funding to the District for education purposes. That money has been equally divided among D.C. Public Schools, D.C. Public Charter Schools and the scholarship program.

Preliminary data suggest that the program has been an overwhelming success. An Education Department study released this month shows that students in the program have higher overall math and reading scores than when they entered the program. The study also points to high satisfaction with their children's schools among parents with children in the program. In short, those in this program have clearly benefited from being in a new school environment.

Despite these obvious signs of success, though, some in Congress want to end the program. Its funding is set to expire after the next school year ends, but some have even suggested curtailing it immediately so that these students can be placed in D.C. public schools as soon as possible. Already, no more students are being enrolled. These naysayers -- many of whom are fellow Democrats -- see vouchers as a tool to destroy the public education system. Their rhetoric and ire are largely fueled by those special-interest groups that are more dedicated to the adults working in the education system than to making certain every child is properly educated.

To us, that narrow perspective is wrongheaded and impractical, especially during these perilous economic times. Rather than talking about ending this scholarship program, federal lawmakers should allow more children to benefit from it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2009 8:15 PM
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