Understandably, a number of conservatives are not happy with the current budget deal Speaker of the House John Boehner, Ohio Republican, agreed to with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and President Obama late last week on Friday, but one good thing that Mr. Boehner did stand tough on through the budget dealings was bringing back the D.C. school choice program.
The Students for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), legislation sponsored by Mr. Boehner, was included in the long term continuing resolution and will be authorized to continue for the next five years. The Heritage Foundation applauded the Speaker’s move at the Foundry blog Monday morning.
Democrats and the Obama administration fought hard to trash the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, established in 2004, that provided a number of underprivileged school children chances to attend private schools in Washington. However, Mr. Boehner along with the new Republican majority vowed to bring it back after Democrats ended it in 2009.
The Washington Times’ Deborah Simmons has written extensively about the D.C. voucher program and illustrated examples where the president found himself struggling to answer why he opposed the school vouchers:
President Obama and other politicians who oppose public tuition vouchers owe Ms. Williams-Bolar a public apology.
The president understands her dilemma. He conceded as much back in September, when a Florida teacher asked him a question during an interview with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show.”
And now that Congress is pondering legislation to broaden school choice, Mr. Obama would honor struggling families by signing up.
During the Lauer interview, Kelly Burnette, a teacher in Nassau County, Fla., asked the president whether he thought his own daughters, Malia and Sasha, “would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school as compared to the very elite private academy that they’re attending now.”
After thanking her for the question, Mr. Obama answered “no” and pointed out that “connections” and residency dictate school-choice options.
“I’ll be blunt with you,” Mr. Obama replied. “The answer is no right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform.
More recently, The Daily Caller’s Mary Katharine Ham countered the myth Democrats and their liberal allies peddle about the lack of effectiveness the D.C. school choice program provides pointing to 2009 Congressional testimony from Dr. Patrick Wolf:
Despite President Obama’s promises to do “what works” on education, whether it’s a Republican or Democratic idea, the administration opposed Boehner’s bill to reinstate the program, saying in part:
Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement. The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students. Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.
The problem is that’s not true. Just ask Patrick Wolf. I’ll let him introduce himself:
I served as the principal investigator of an outstanding team of researchers who conducted a congressionally-mandated independent study of the OSP supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. I am also a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas with more than a decade of experience evaluating school choice programs in D.C., Milwaukee, New York, and Dayton, Ohio.
That would be Dr. Patrick Wolf, the man Congress told to do a study of the program for the Department of Education. He’s testified in front of Congressional committees no fewer than three times in the last two years about the program’s effectiveness. This did not escape the Washington Post as it did the administration, though perhaps Democrats can be forgiven for their ignorance. After all, scholarship critics and teachers’ union leaders have refused time and again to show up to testify against the program.
Watch the video here.
Apparently, the administration was forced to make to make a choice in the budget debate messaging and aborting the fight to keep school choice out of the District of Columbia was a better option for the Democrats than losing federal funding for Planned Parenthood.