Richard Holassie, an 8-year-old D.C. Opportunity Scholarship student, talks to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) about why the program should keep its funding.
Today, the families of the children on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship will gather at 14th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. at 1 p.m. to protest the stripping of funding for the program. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) added language to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill this spring to deprive the kids of the measly $14 million it takes to keep 1,700 low-income, 99-percent minority students in the same elite private schools the likes of Durbin and his children attended.
Durbin claimed the program, a pilot program established five years ago by just a two-vote margin in the Senate, simply needed evaluation, but the language was meant to kill the nascent school-choice program, which he knew was unlikely to get the necessary backing in a Democrat-controlled Senate. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) notably spoke up for the scholarships on the floor at the time (along with many Republican senators), and the Department of Education has since released a report affirming that children involved in the program are ahead of their public-school peers in overall academic achievement, significant gains were made in reading, and parents are very satisfied with the program.
Nonetheless, Obama's Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, whom Obama promised would make decisions not based on whether ideas were "liberal or conservative, but whether [they] work" has since rescinded scholarships for the upcoming school year already offered to students.
The Obama administration seems intent on euthanizing a program that's demonstrably working, despite promises to think outside the box on education and not be beholden to such anti-choice special-interest groups as the NEA.
The families on the scholarship and their supporters have a tough road ahead of them. The program will come up for evaluation in Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) committee next week, but will then have to be approved for reauthorization by both the Dem-heavy Senate and the D.C. City Council. Rallies like the one today, filled with the faces of the very children Democrats claim to fight for, will be key to shining a light on their malfeasance and maybe getting a few to change their minds.