Obama Betrays his Most Loyal Supporters, Again
February 16, 2012
President Obama is rewarding District of Columbia residents -- who gave him 92 percent of their votes in the 2008 election -- by zeroing out an education program that 74 percent of them support. Enrollment in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is up 60 percent this year, but Obama gave the OSP a goose egg instead of the expected $20 million in his new $3.8 trillion budget. To pacify the teachers unions, he turned his back on 1,615 disadvantaged District children -- 92 percent of whom are black or Hispanic and live in households with an average annual income of $23,401 -- who are taking advantage of the OSP to escape academically inferior and unsafe public schools.
Democrats have tried for years to kill the OSP ever since a Republican Congress created it eight years ago. The program provides tuition assistance of up to $8,000 for elementary and middle school students and $12,000 for high schoolers at qualifying private schools. In 2009, Obama tried to phase it out by closing the program off to new entrants. Last year, House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., teamed up in a bipartisan effort to save the program, which Congress reauthorized for five more years.
A gold standard" evaluation by the U.S. Department of Education found that OSP recipients had the second largest academic gains of any program studied nationwide. The OSP participants also achieved a 91 percent high school graduation rate -- compared with 55 percent for their D.C. Public School peers. If the real goal is to improve educational opportunities for poor minority children, OSP's relatively low cost (less than half of the $18,000 DCPS spends per student) and its documented success should have insulated it from any budget cuts. It's on the chopping block precisely because it so vividly demonstrates the superiority of school choice to government-run public schools in the nation's capital.
Obama's action not only threatens the future of thousands of disadvantaged District children, it's a betrayal of the 10,000 D.C. families who have applied for vouchers since the program began. Obama, who attended an elite private high school in Hawaii on scholarship and whose own two daughters go to Sidwell Friends, plans to plow the money back into the same failed public school system they've been trying to escape. It is tragic that, after wasting hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars on worthless solar panel and electric car battery companies, America's first black president refuses to spend one cent to give poor D.C. children the same advantages he had growing up.