Robinson: Obama Redefined School Reform for Democrats
Williams: The Temptation to Compromise With Trump on Schools — and Why It Might Kill Education Reform
Antonucci: How Representative Are NEA’s Representatives?
Cynthia Tucker Haynes: Obama’s Embrace of Education Reform Freed Progressives to Do the Same
Barnum: Obama’s Education Legacy Mirrors the Rest of His Presidency — Accomplished but Polarizing
Bradford: How Obama’s K-12 Schooling Drove His Education Policy — and May Also Shape His Retirement
Eden: “The Citizen Academy Way” — Why a Cleveland Charter Succeeds in a Failure Zone
Merriweather: My Grad School Stats Say I Beat the Odds. A Private School Scholarship Let Me Do It
Cunningham: Obama’s Rich Education Legacy, and What’s Possible When You Challenge Political Allies
Noltemeyer and Saultz: Why States Should Focus More on School Climate Under ESSA
Analysis: The U.S. Department of Education — Born in the NEA
Cynthia Tucker Haynes: As Trump Ascends, Lessons for Our Daughters on Knowing Their Worth
Opinion: Pensions, Politics and the New Jersey Education Association
Analysis: What the Media Have Gotten Wrong About Betsy DeVos and Detroit’s Schools
Romy Drucker: Campbell Brown, The 74 and Why Education Should Be Front-Page News Every Day
Campbell Brown: A Note About My Role at The 74
Berner: How Rethinking Classroom Instruction May Have Boosted Student Achievement in Louisiana
Campbell Brown: A Brief Primer on Bullying
Antonucci: The 10 Most Memorable Teachers Union Quotes of 2016
Bradford: Water for Accountability, How the Post-NCLB Coalition Must Be Both Fluid and Strong
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.