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This morning, President Obama discussed the failing state of the American education system on NBC’s Today Show. Fortunately, Obama acknowledged that more spending is not the solution to improving education. He stated:
When you look at the statistics, our per pupil spending has gone up over the last few decades even as results have gone down.
The Cato Institute chart below confirms that increased education spending has not boosted student test scores:
During his interview, Kelly Burnett questioned if Obama’s two daughters would receive the same quality education in a local DC public school than in their prestigious private school. President Obama directly answered the question by saying:
I’ll be blunt with you; the answer is no right now. The DC public school systems are struggling
He admitted that due to his high status he had the rare opportunity to enroll Sasha and Malia in a better performing DC public school. But he stated that:
the broader problem is for a mom and a dad who are working hard but don’t have a lot of connections, don’t have a lot of choice in terms of where they live. They should be getting the same quality education as anyone else. We don’t have that yet.
President Obama is right. Many poor families with no political connections have no choice but to enroll their children in a failing DC public school. The DC public school system is the most expensive yet produces the worst results in the nation. DC spends an average of $28,170 per pupil annually yet only 12 percent of eight-graders are proficient in reading, only 8 percent in math.
Seemingly, Obama should support reforms that allow other families to escape the failing DC public school system. After all, President Obama who supposedly grew up poor benefited tremendously from receiving a scholarship to attend the prestigious private Punahou School. Without the opportunity to obtain an excellent education, he may have never grown up to become the President of the United States. Therefore, it is puzzling that President Obama failed to extend the successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program also known as the DC Voucher Program last year. Why shouldn’t all DC families have the same opportunity to send their child to a better performing school?
The DC public schools simply did not meet the needs of the Obama family. Likewise, many DC parents are severely dissatisfied with their children’s educational quality. It’s difficult for a student to focus on learning if their school is plagued with gang violence. When the DC Scholarship Program was passed in 2004, it gave countless DC families hope to send their child to a better school. In fact, the program was so popular that were four applicants for every one available slot. Virginia Walden Ford whose son William got a scholarship to attend a private school says that:
I believe that being able to choose a school that was safe and a better environment for him saved his life.
During the 2008 election, Obama stated that "if there was any argument for vouchers it was ‘Let's see if the experiment works.' And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what's best for kids." After pressure from powerful teachers' unions, he has since backed away from that statement. However, the DC School Voucher Program was proven to be a successful experiment in various ways. While only 1,900 students could be accommodated, a whopping 7,000 students applied for a voucher. The program was cost effective since it only cost an average of $6,620 per student—one-fourth of the cost that the district pays for K-12 schooling. The short-lived program was also responsible for increasing student achievement and parental satisfaction. The Department of Education found that students that came into DC Voucher Program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading compared to their public school counterparts.
While 45 percent of Senators choose to send their own children to private schools, many of these lawmakers hypocritically oppose school choice for others. Our children deserve better than the status quo. It’s time to do what’s best for students. By reenacting the successful DC Voucher Program, all DC parents will have the same opportunity to send their child to a better and safer school that meets their individual needs.