SIMMONS: Students’ high hopes need to be supported

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Three brothers living in the Woodridge area of Northeast are depending on the White House and Congress to do right by all young people.

Their names are Robert, an 11th-grader at Perry Street Prep Public Charter School; Zarrick, a ninth-grader at Archbishop Carroll High School; and Zuri, the youngest of the Franklin boys, and a fourth-grader at St. Anthony’s Catholic School and guest of House Speaker John A. Boehner at President Obama’s State of the Union Address in February.

They are living examples of academic success, but the White House and Justice Department are throwing cold water on their hopes.

Addressing 2011 complaints about school vouchers in Wisconsin, the U.S. Justice Department said last week that the program cannot discriminate against children with disabilities.

“The state cannot, by delegating the education function to private voucher schools, place students beyond the reach of the federal laws that require Wisconsin to eliminate disability discrimination in its administration of public programs,” Justice said in a letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers.

The letter comes at an opportune time for the Obama administration as it joins unions to push back access to tax-funded scholarships and other school-choice options, and seemingly adopts the position that some states are attempting to privatize public education.

Asked if she had any words of encouragement about the popular program she would tell the president, the boys’ mother, Tara Franklin, said: “These scholarships give kids the opportunity for a better life and a better education. It’s a gateway to go get what you want to get. D.C. Public Schools sets young men up to fail.”

And, I might add, girls, as well.

See, it’s not the Franklins’ neighborhood school, John Burroughs Education Campus, a traditional school in Northeast, was a bad school. It’s that the scholarship program empowered Ms. Franklin to open new doors for her boys.

She knew Zuri, who left Burroughs after the second grade, would do better in a challenging learning environment.

“I loved Burroughs,” Ms. Franklin said.

Zuri wasn’t really learning” in the D.C. Public School system, said Ms. Franklin, a stay-at-home mom to Robert, 16, Zarrick, 14, and 10-year-old Zuri. “He needed to be challenged because he was way ahead of the other kids.”

And there was something else that gnawed at her.

“They were doing a lot of [budget] cuts in DCPS,” she said. “Zuri began taking Spanish in the first grade and then [they] cut it out. They cut music and drama. My other son had taken French. It’s been great at St. Anthony’s. Zuri has a tough teacher. All my sons are doing better.”

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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