Opinion: State Union Rankings Show Strength of Labor Depends on Size of Government
Betheny Gross — The Key to Effective Personalized Learning: Rigorous Content, Standards, and Experiences
Chavous & Duplessis: Undoing ‘Separate but Equal,’ Six Decades After Brown v. Board of Education
Williams: The D.C. Enrollment Scandal Shows How Critical It Is to Guard Against Parent Privilege
Plucker: Gifted Education, Race & Poverty — How Do We Join Forces to Close America’s ‘Excellence Gap’?
Tucker Haynes: Proof That Charters Offer Excellence to All Children Goes Beyond U.S. News’s Top 10 Ranking
Avossa & Chang: As Immigrant School Leaders, We Know That No Immigrant Student Should Have to Live in Fear
Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of America’s Education Reform Debate: A Growing Blue-Red Divide
Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of America’s Education Reform Debate: Time for a Suburban Strategy?
Miles & Wiener: In Washington, D.C., a Road Map for Reinventing Professional Development in Schools
Analysis: From ‘Incarceration Pay’ to ‘Rule of 75,’ Surprising Contract Benefits for Teachers Union Staffers
DeGrow: New Detroit Supe Wants to Compete With Charter Schools. How He Can Start Raising the Bar
Lake: Why Personalized Learning Will Ultimately Live or Die on Its Ability to Manage Change
Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of the Education Reform Debate: Why Being ‘Right’ Isn’t Enough
Rotherham: Why Won’t Betsy DeVos Answer Hard Questions?
Williams: When Students Own Their Academic Results, They Transform Their Schools
Fiddler: The Cost of Textbooks Is a Huge Obstacle for Poor Students. Here’s a Solution
Jeb Bush: What the Media Is Getting Wrong About Florida’s Push to Help Students With Disabilities
Bankert: If Rahm Emanuel’s Graduation Plan Is to Succeed, Colleges Must Lower Barriers for Poor, Minority Students
Student Voice: My Mother Is Undocumented. My Father Was Deported. I Am the Resistance
Sen. Lieberman: Why Is the Government Sitting on $35 Million Set Aside for Poor Kids in Washington, DC?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
March 23, 2016
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
It continues to be puzzling why this Obama administration has consistently denied low-income minority students in the District of Columbia the chance to get a quality education. A quality education is the key to the American dream; it is the on-ramp to success, and it is often the difference between a life of dependency and a life of success.
At this moment, the U.S. Department of Education is sitting on some $35 million in funds specifically appropriated by the U.S. Congress for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. For years, former Speaker John Boehner and I fought for the reauthorization of this successful program. We finally got it done in 2011 thanks to the Speaker’s perseverance during the FY2011 budget negotiations.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program offers low-income families in the District of Columbia the opportunity to receive a scholarship for their child to attend a D.C. K-12 private school of their choice. It is part of a three-pronged program, authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2004, to provide new funds in equal amounts to the D.C. public schools, D.C.'s charter schools, and opportunity scholarships.
By any objective standard, it is a program that is working for disadvantaged children.
The average annual household income of families participating in the scholarship program is under $22,000 a year. Ninety-seven percent of families in the program are African-American or Hispanic. Sixty percent of participating families receive SNAP benefits (food stamps). Most notably, the high school graduation rate for students using an opportunity scholarship is over 90 percent. Compare that to the overall D.C. graduation rate of 62 percent, not to mention graduation rates of 40 to 50 percent in the public high schools where participating families live.
This program is keeping at risk students away from drugs and out of jail. A 2013 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education cited several studies with varying estimates but the same general conclusion: completing high school reduces the likelihood of a young person turning to crime. For example, according to one source, a 10 percent increase in the male high school graduation rate would reduce murder and assault arrest rates by about 20 percent. A study released earlier this month by the University of Arkansas specifically found that participation in school voucher programs resulted in male students committing fewer crimes. In fact, male students participating in these programs were less likely to be accused of any types of crimes, including felonies.
And yet, the Department of Education has thus far without explanation refused to release these funds to allow for new scholarships for needy families. In doing this, I fear it is buckling to the powerful teachers' unions.
The need is there: thousands of low-income minority families in the District of Columbia are applying for these scholarships. Already, for the 2016-2017 school year, there are 2,000 new applications. But the vast majority of them will be denied a scholarship unless the administration releases these previously appropriated funds.
I urge newly confirmed Secretary of Education John King to release these funds immediately and give these children the same educational opportunity that current Opportunity Scholarship students now enjoy. He will thereby give them a better chance to receive a quality education, graduate from high school, go on to college and reach their full potential in life.