D.C. School System Bids Farewell to Vouchers

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.

The D.C. voucher program -- like all attempts to rescue poor, underprivileged, minority children from failing public schools -- has long been opposed by the pro-equality-of-(poor)-outcome Left and the teachers' unions, which are strident in their opposition to any attempt to introduce competition and standards into American education regardless of the devastating impact that opposition has on inner-city minority populations.

"The free market voucher paradigm is a thinly veiled threat to public education," wrote Cheryl Lubin last October at Huffington Post. Liberals across the board  agreed. Those at Democratic Underground hyperventilated that vouchers are part of an "extremist agenda to destroy public school education." In Florida, the state's top teachers' union went to court to prevent the state's citizens from being able to vote on the restoration of a voucher program.

Now, with time running out on the D.C. voucher program and proof in hand of its success, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats actively prevented the public from learning the truth about this program designed to pull poor minority children from failing D.C. schools until they had successfully terminated the program.

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) attempted to save the voucher program by offering an amendment to the omnibus spending bill that would have removed the provision ending the "D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program" after the 2009-2010 school year. Democrats were opposed to that amendment and it was defeated by a 58-39 vote.

Given a chance to put its money where its mouth is on a program that had been proven to be successful, Senate Democrats and the Obama administration instead chose to hide the evidence of that success in order to push their radical ideology.

It's an ideology that forces continued failure on poor minority children and families in order to placate powerful unions and to perpetuate the cycle of government dependency within one of the Democrats' most reliable voting blocs.