Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Democrats May Kill D.C. Scholarship Program

President Barack Obama’s two daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, may lose two of their classmates soon. The $410 billion spending bill which is currently before Congress includes a provision which would threaten the Washington D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which provides up to $7,500 to low-income families so that they can afford to send their children to a private or religious school of their choice. Over 1,700 students receive money from this scholarship, and the future of their education may be drastically affected by the bill if it is passed as is. This would include Sarah and Matt Parker, who attend the same private school as Obama’s daughters, Sidwell Friends School. Without the scholarship, it is likely that these students will no longer be able to afford the tuition for the school of their choice.

The question this raises is, should public money be used for private school vouchers, including religious schools? Obama has repeatedly asserted that they should not, arguing that people shouldn't abandon the public schools just because they're failing their children. Of course, when it came to choosing a school for his own daughters, Obama wisely chose private education over the inferior public schools in both Chicago and Washington D.C. Though his anti-school-choice policies, Obama is denying low-income families the chance to make the same choice he did.

Vouchers are strongly supported by poor families, especially parents from minority groups. Citing evidence from a 2008 Education Next/Harvard PEPG survey, J. William Reed of The Washington Times wrote, “65 percent of African-Americans support private school vouchers for low-income students (14 percent opposed). Among Hispanics, 63 percent support vouchers for low-income children (16 percent opposed).”

The Supreme Court has ruled that all parents have a fundamental right to choose where their child is educated, whether they choose a public school, a private school, or a Christian school. However, many parents cannot afford to exercise this right. By killing the OPS, Democrats in Congress are doing indirectly what they are forbidden to do directly: denying parents the opportunity to choose a private school.

An amendment for the stimulus is being put forward by Republicans, which will remove the damaging provision. It's the last chance for OSP because Obama promises to sign the spending bill as soon as it's passed, regardless of the provision.

During the campaign, Obama promised to go through the budget "line by line" and cut wasteful spending. Why hasn't he exercised this power yet? Why sign a bill which will deny two kids the opportunity to go to Sidwell Friends School when he could easily cross out the provision?

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