Obama’s 2013 budget request released on Monday has left the already-struggling students of Washington, D.C., in a lurch. His budget request effectively defunds the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The OSP provides low income students in D.C. with vouchers to attend private schools of their choice. The Heritage Foundation released research in 2010 conducted by the Department of Education that showed students who used these vouchers achieved higher graduation rates and greater parental satisfaction. This clearly identifies the president’s priorities for our nation’s budget. President Barack Obama is not interested in taking advantage of smart programs that work or freedom of choice by citizens, but is instead interested in pouring money back into government-run programs.
This voucher program was under attack before, back in 2009, with a provision included in a spending bill by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill). The program only survived because Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) secured it in 2011 to the budget agreement signed by president Obama himself. However in this new budget proposal the president is reneging on his promise and ending a program that was a ray of hope for over 1,600 students.
In his State of the Union Address Obama, spoke of the dropout crisis facing our country. Yet he rips away support for a program that has low-income students graduating at a rate of 91% compared to the 70% rate of non-voucher students. In addition, polling last year showed 74% of D.C. residents wanted this program restored and expanded, 77% believed that all options should be available for D.C.’s most disadvantaged students, even if it cannot help every child in the district. An extensive study conducted by the University of Arkansas determined the voucher program’s effect on graduation rates. Their studies show that students in the voucher program had graduation rates 20% higher than those in a control group.
Over 10,000 families have applied for these vouchers since the OSP began in 2004, this is something the parents of D.C. want for their children. Obama himself is a product of a private school scholarship, why would he take from the hands of these children opportunity he knows to be worthwhile?
Children from low-income households are given a chance at better, safer schools with a better education through this program. The $8,000 awarded is modest compared to the $18,000 per student that the federal government spends through public education. It is confusing that the President would not send his own daughters to public schools, and speaks of education reform and helping those in need, yet takes money away from a program that has been proven to be successful. The Department of Education is requesting $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for 2013, this is an increase of $1.7 billion dollars from 2012. The president himself is proposing a one-time $14 billion appropriation in “key reform” areas, so why is this small scale and cost effective program even an issue? Obama has claimed that he cares about the 99% and improving education for everyone yet he is building up a government school system and snatching away hope from the children that fall under the very shadow of his current home, the White House.
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