DC Parents to Duncan: Save the 216

The Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats outrageously decided to cut school vouchers for children in the District of Columbia earlier this year, meaning that hundreds of kids who’ve been doing well in private school will be forced to return to the failing public school system. All because Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration are beholden to the teacher unions who despise the successful program.

The situation has lead to a rare occurrence: An alliance has formed between low-income families, black and Hispanic officials on the local level, and conservative Republican activists and politicians. They’re all pushing for the federal government to continue the proven program that provides a quality education to children whose parents would otherwise be unable to afford private school tuition.

The Washington Post reports that pro-school choice activists are revving up their campaign to ensure that these children are able to continue attending private school. But time is quickly running out.

Classes in District public schools start Monday, and 216 students are hoping they won’t have to go back. About 70 parents, children and activists joined Thursday in front of the U.S. Department of Education to encourage Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to award vouchers to help the students pay for private school.

The students, who were offered vouchers worth as much as $7,500 toward tuition from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program this spring before Duncan rescinded them in the face of the program’s uncertain future, were left to find placements in public and charter schools. Some families have complained that by the time the vouchers were rolled back, there were few spots available at competitive public schools.

“We’re hoping that Secretary Duncan is going to look out the window so he can see how strongly the parents support it,” said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, one of the groups that organized the protest. “They just put families into a bad situation.”…

Congress voted in March to cut off funding for the city’s voucher program after the 2009-10 academic year unless the entire program is reauthorized by lawmakers, which will be tough in the Democrat-led body. President Obama later proposed maintaining funding for the 1,716 students already in the program until they graduate high school but closing the door on new entrants.

The Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats would rather have children continue to struggle or go back to struggling in a failed public school system than stand up to the teacher unions to whom their party is beholden. They conjure up bull arguments to justify sending kids who are finding success in a private school setting back to a public school, where they can get little proper education and struggle through until graduation. It’s a disgrace.

Incidentally, DC Public School chancellor Michelle Rhee — a Democrat — has expressed support for the continuation of the voucher program. She has expressly stated that it poses no threat to the public school system and that she is a “huge proponent of choice”. Perhaps Congressional Democrats and President Obama should pay attention to their fellow Democrat.

The Heritage defends the program:

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program is limited, and Congress and the Obama administration are threatening its end. The bottom line is that thousands of kids have no choice but to attend government-zoned schools based on their home address—a process that can consign the kids in the poorest parts of town to the worst schools.

All families in D.C. deserve to have the power to choose a safe and effective school for their children—the same power that most politicians take for granted.

It’s time for the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats to do the right thing: Tell the teacher unions that it’s more important to educate children well than keep special interests happy. The DC voucher program should be continued and, in fact, expanded.

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