President Barack Obama’s newly-released federal budget fails to fund the highly-successful D.C. voucher program, despite an agreement signed by the president last year that reauthorized the program.
The defunding of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), would end scholarships to more than 1,600 families of low-income children in the nation’s capital to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. Councilman and vocal advocate for the program stated: “This latest hypocrisy is just the most recent instance in which the president has stood in the way of students who are improving test scores and graduating in higher numbers.”
In 2010, President Obama publicly stated that he would not send his daughters to D.C. public schools, despite actively working to bar low-income families from having that choice. The Obama family and members of Congress do not qualify for the OSP because they can well afford to send their children to elite private schools such as Sidwell Friends School where the Obama children currently attend. This school costs close to $30,000 a year in tuition. Most of the District of Columbia’s low-income families would love to be able to afford an escape from their failing public schools - among the worst in the nation - but they lack the financial means to do so.
Thankfully for these low-income students and their families it is Congress that is charged with appropriating funds, not the president. House Speaker John Boehner is a vocal supporter of school choice and an ardent defender of the program. Once again, the president has placed politics above principle. He continues to speak about education reform yet this recent attack upon the low-income families of the nation’s capital undermines a notion of real reform or authentic choice for many students. The president’s defunding does little for economically struggling students who need a sound education to escape poverty, rather assuages the special interests of the powerful and wealthy public teachers’ unions that fill his campaign coffers during this election year. The students who benefit from the OSP deserve better from Mr. Obama than empty campaign promises of hope and change.