What’s the single most successful federal education program out there? Believe it or not there actually is one which stands out.
The D.C. OSP has been highly successful. According to federally-mandated evaluations of the program, student achievement has increased, and graduation rates of voucher students have increased significantly. While graduation rates in D.C. Public Schools hover around 55 percent, students who used a voucher to attend private school had a 91 percent graduation rate.
And at $8,000, the vouchers are a bargain compared to the estimated $18,000 spent per child by D.C. Public Schools.
The Department of Education’s budget will increase 3.5 percent if the proposal is enacted, continuing a failed trend of spending more taxpayer dollars through Washington on a myriad of programs with a poor track record.
By contrast, the D.C. OSP has a stellar track record of increasing academic success, student safety, and parental satisfaction. And because of the nature of the District of Columbia (education in D.C. is under the jurisdiction of Congress), it is entirely appropriate for the federal government to fund the D.C. OSP.
In 2009, upon first assuming office, President Obama attempted to kill the program, which costs all of $20 million a year. There was a big fight about it and he ultimately backed off, allowing the people involved in it to stay in it until they graduated high school.
But today Obama went after it again, scrubbing that $20 million from a $3.8 trillion budget.
It’s asinine for him to do so, of course, since the House won’t allow him to kill it. They didn’t allow him to kill it last year, instead extending the program for five years. A brief history…
In 2009, Senator Dick Durbin included a provision in an omnibus spending bill prohibiting any new children from receiving scholarships unless the program was fully reauthorized by Congress and authorized by the D.C. City Council. The make-up of Congress in 2009 was such that a reauthorization of the voucher program was highly unlikely, meaning Durbin’s provision effectively doomed the program, since no new children were allowed to receive scholarships.
But in April 2011, Speaker John Boehner forced President Obama’s hand during heated budget negotiations, securing the restoration and expansion of the D.C. OSP. Families were elated. Once again, children would have the opportunity apply for scholarships to attend a private school of their choice, providing them a lifeline out of the underperforming and often dangerous D.C. Public Schools.
The D.C. OSP’s restoration in early 2011 was an important milestone in the “Year of School Choice.” More than 1,600 low-income children in the Nation’s Capital are using vouchers this school year to attend a school that they chose.
Allahpundit at Hot Air has it exactly right in assessing this…
The bad news is that O is so deeply captive to public-school teachers’ unions that he’d rather risk the optics of canceling a school-choice program for poor kids knowing that it’ll end up in the budget anyway than embrace it and anger his PEU cronies. Loathsome.
And that’s all this is. Because it’s not about the money. After all, D.C. blows $18,000 per student per year on some of the crappiest public schools in the country and this thing is worth $8,000 per student – so we’re actually talking about saving money, at least on a per-student basis (though when you’re spending $8,000 on a voucher instead of $18,000 to send a kid into the maw of the educracy, that’s a direct affront to the Democrat Party, which carries its own prohibitive cost figure).
That’s $10,000 per unit the federal government could have saved. But remember that $10,000 per unit figure.
Why? Here’s why.
The White House intends to boost government subsidies for wealthy buyers of the Chevy Volt and other new-technology vehicles — to $10,000 per buyer.
That mammoth subsidy would cost taxpayers $100 million each year if it is approved by Congress, presuming only 10,000 new-technology autos are sold each year.
But the administration wants to get 1 million new-tech autos on the road by 2015. The subsidy cost of that goal could reach $10 billion.
So federal dollars which could have been pumped into giving poor inner-city kids a shot at choosing a school is instead going to go into bribing well-heeled idiots into buying an electric car you can’t even get through the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey with before it has to switch to running on gas.
But, again, this isn’t about the federal budget or getting the government to do things that actually make sense. This is about using your tax dollars to pay off constituency groups.
And you simply won’t find a more powerful constituency group for the Democrat Party Obama is the de-facto head of than teachers’ unions. It’s hardly a stretch to say the teachers’ unions flat-out own many of Obama’s fellow Democrat politicians.
Like Rep. George Miller (D-CA), a typical example. Here he is in March of last year griping about the DC voucher program’s extension; everything out of his mouth is a flat-out lie.
Miller should maybe talk to these folks, who Reason.tv caught up with when Obama first tried to kill the DC voucher program – they don’t seem to share his view of the program…
Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, was the chancellor of the DC public school system until the teachers’ union ran her out of a job by unseating the mayor who hired her. Here is Rhee talking about the DC voucher program and how she came around to support of it.
It’s not specifically about vouchers but rather school choice (and particularly in the form of charter schools to replace failing traditional public schools), but a movie everybody should see is The Lottery. It’s a documentary on kids in Harlem and their parents’ efforts to get them into Harlem Success Academy, a very high-performing charter school which has so many applicants that every spring they hold a lottery for open spaces, and every year the vast majority of the hopefuls go away disappointed.
The people who run the Harlem Success Academy schools are trying to expand, but of course land being what it is in New York City it’s close to impossible to build a new school. Instead, charters in NYC are taking over buildings from public schools that have been shut down by the city’s education department – and the resulting havoc the teachers’ unions are laying on is predictable.
You can watch the full documentary here if the embed below won’t load…
About 26 minutes in you’ll see something that will absolutely drive you bonkers. It’s a scene in which the teachers’ union has engaged in the typical leftist tactic of “Rent-A-Mob” – in this case, calling the scumbags from ACORN to show up and demonstrate in front of a school the education department wants to shut down and turn over to a charter. Because if the union teachers came out en masse, everybody would know they’re only there to protect their jobs at the failing schools at which they work. Instead, they pay ACORN to make a scene and create the impression that the folks on the street are apoplectic at the idea you’d shut down a public school that can’t get 40 percent of its 5th graders to read at grade level.
And about 48 minutes in there’s a specific scene when Eva Moskowitz, who founded the Harlem Success schools, gets the third degree from the City Council – so much so that Maria del Carmen Arroyo, a South Bronx councilwoman who bears the typical stink of crooked Democrat politics, goes so far as to directly accuse Moskowitz of lying about living in Harlem before calling her arrogant for decrying the fact that lots of traditional public schools there don’t educate anybody.
The Lottery is a tremendously depressing film, as well-done and informative as it is. It points out just how entrenched the establishment is and how intransigent they are in opposition to the kids and parents they’re supposed to be serving. It deals with charters in New York, but the DC voucher program is part and parcel of the debate.
And now it’s twice in his first term that Obama has taken the side of that establishment against the parents and kids who just want the opportunity at a good education in DC. It’s disgusting.
Is there a solution? Back in 2009 when this blog was in a very nascent stage and Obama attempted to spike the DC voucher program for the first time, I suggested that the GOP’s House and Senate delegation should host a series of fundraisers to fund the program with private dollars in order to shame Obama for his dastardly attack on those parents and kids. That doesn’t appear necessary since Speaker John Boehner, who is a stalwart defender of the program, had the stroke to save it last year and will likely save it again this year.
But it wouldn’t be a terrible idea if Boehner and the rest of the GOP members on Capitol Hill were to raise that money anyway. Get another $20 million from the usual suspects – the cash doesn’t have to come in until next year, so it doesn’t have to interfere with campaign fundraising – and double the size of the DC voucher program just to spite the president and his educrat allies.
At that point perhaps Obama and Miller and the rest of the Left can explain to minority folks in inner cities why the racist white Republicans from the suburbs are giving their own money in an effort to provide them with opportunities for a decent education while the diverse, enlightened lefties living uptown and in the chic urban-renewal districts are fighting like hell to put a stop to it.