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D.C. School System Bids Farewell to Vouchers

An experimental voucher program falls victim to a cynical ploy by the White House and Senate.

by
Jeff Emanuel

Bio

April 7, 2009 - 12:31 am
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On March 10, the U.S. Senate voted to terminate the experimental school voucher program in Washington, D.C., which had been implemented in order to help provide poor minority children in failing schools with the same educational opportunities that so many children of senators, congressmen, and presidents within the district have as a result of their advantageous birth.

During his presidential campaign, President Obama indicated that he would put his personal opposition to vouchers aside “if he saw more proof that vouchers are successful.” I would “not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February 2008. “You do what works for the kids.”

Now it appears that the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate purposely kept the results of a congressionally-mandated study showing the benefits of the D.C. voucher program from becoming public until after they had managed to spike the program due to its supposed “lack of effectiveness.”

The executive summary of the report is available here; the full 198-page report can be seen here. Both are buried on the website of the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES), the arm of the Bureau of Education that conducts research and compiles statistics on such programs. The data contained in the report were collected in the spring and fall of 2008, and it was prepared for publication over the winter — then held from the public until April 3, when it was finally made available online.

The result of the Obama administration delaying the release of this report (which showed that participants in the voucher program outperformed those in the district’s public schools by a large margin on reading tests) until after the Senate vote is that the 1,700 low-income, minority children who are currently receiving up to $7,500 in vouchers per year to attend private school instead of their own failing D.C. public schools will be forced to return to those public schools after the 2009-10 school year. T Mayor Adrian Fenty had said, “It would not be productive to disrupt the education of children who are presently enrolled in private schools,” and empirical evidence shows that such a move will consign them to a lower-quality education and a far less optimistic future.

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