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Showing posts with label D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Show all posts

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taxpayers Fund Abortions but not School Vouchers

From OneNewsNow
By Dr. Paul Kengor

In my last article, a somber remembrance of Roe v. Wade, I called attention to something that shocked readers: I noted that the Obama administration and Democratic Congress "rejected funding for school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, but supported funding for abortions for the mothers of those children."

The contrast is breathtaking, but true. It's another jolt to traditionally minded voters — especially pro-life Democrats and independents — who voted for "change" on November 4, 2008, and are now absorbing the change they authorized. In this case, the change stands in stark contrast to previous administrations and Congresses that prohibited federal funds to finance abortions in the District of Columbia. It veers well beyond liberals' assurance that abortion merely be "safe, legal, and rare."

If you didn't hear about this until now, don't be surprised. Over 300,000 pro-lifers marched in Washington last month without notice by the mainstream media. So, I'd like to take a moment to explain what happened:

Last summer, in July 2009, the overwhelmingly Democratic House of Representatives narrowly passed (by a vote of 219-208) a bill permitting the DC government to use locally raised tax revenues to provide abortions, reversing a long-standing prohibition.

Almost all Republicans voted against the bill. They were joined by some (but not enough) Democrats. Unfortunately, because of how Americans voted on November 4, 2008, the extreme left has such a massive majority in Congress that legislators who think taxpayers shouldn't pay for abortions couldn't stop the measure from being passed. Worse, because Americans — who, in recent polls, describe themselves as more pro-life and more conservative than ever — voted for the most radical abortion-rights advocate in the history of the presidency, the bill had full backing from the White House.

And so, the change in favor of abortion funding came via a $768 million DC Financial Services Appropriations bill that — here's the kicker — also included termination of school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, forcing those children out of private schools and back into public schools they fled.

Most Americans didn't notice any of this, given that the mainstream media that serves as educator-in-chief didn't dare highlight the story. Two sources that did notice, however, are worth quoting:

One is Rep. Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania congressman who is a stalwart champion for the unborn. Pitts told me: "It's shameful that Congress has decided to use taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of life in our nation's capital but has denied funding for a successful scholarship program that allows poor children a chance at a decent education. The juxtaposition in policies could not be more disturbing."

More disturbed than Pitts was Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who was fit to be tied: "Following the lead of President Barack Obama," said Donohue, "the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow the District of Columbia to fund abortions. Also following Obama's wishes, the same bill affirmed the...congressional decision to end school vouchers there."

"Here's what it comes down to," summed up Donohue. Poor pregnant women living in Washington, DC, "will be told that if they decide to abort their baby, the government will pay for it. But if they persist in bringing their baby to term, the government will not help them to avoid the same lousy public schools that Barack and Michelle shunned for Sasha and Malia." Donohue denounced the action as "cruel."

No doubt, it's an outrage. Of course, it's also predictable. By and large, liberals oppose school vouchers but support legalized abortion. In that sense, this is nothing new.

What is new, however, is this sudden aggressive push by today's "progressives" for taxpayers to fund abortions. This is the culmination of a progressive death march begun a century ago by Planned Parenthood founder and racial eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who preached extraction of "human weeds" from the gene pool in order to advance "race improvement" (her words). Today's progressive heirs have taken Sanger's torch and lit up the barn.

And thus, we now have — in no less than the nation's capital — a poster-child for that grim progressive worldview. It's a child who doesn't get aid to go to a private school — even as his mother pays school taxes — but whose mother gets aid to abort the child's sibling.

We're not only losing our conscience as a nation; we're losing our mind.

I know the response I'll get from Democrats: furious emails, enraged at me. That's sad. I'm simply reporting what happened. I didn't vote for any of this. I plead with them: If you're angry, write to the people in your party who are responsible. Only you can stop this madness. Clean your own house.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dramatic Standoff at U.S. Department of Education as Six D.C. School Voucher Backers Block Doorway-Demand Obama Action on School Choice

In a dramatic act of civil disobedience today, six national education leaders blocked the main entrance of the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to protect the endangered Washington, D.C. school voucher program. The protesters refused to leave the premises for nearly an hour, leading to a standoff with police. Apparently on orders from federal officials, no arrests were made.

The individuals blocking entrance to the building were: former Democratic D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, longtime D.C. education activist and executive director of DC Parents for School Choice Virginia Walden Ford, the Rev. Anthony Motley, Black Alliance for Educational (BAEO) Board Chair Dr. Howard Fuller, BAEO President Gerard Robinson, and education reform leader Darrell Allison.

The protesters-who sought to block the entrance of the Department because "the President and the Secretary have blocked low-income parents from accessing the schools of their parents` choice"-were cheered on by 50 families and supporters.

Hailed by reformers across the country, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program serves 1,700 low-income, mostly African American, students in Washington, D.C. Two hundred and sixteen students who were offered scholarships last year had them revoked by Secretary Duncan in the Spring, leaving parents in the lurch.

"Two weeks ago, it became painfully clear that the Obama administration was not going to allow 216 previously accepted children to enroll in schools of their choice through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP)," Chavous said. "As much as I support our President and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, this action reeks with hypocrisy. As a result, we decided to engage in an act of civil disobedience. For years, many of us in the education reform movement have
been saying that the right to a quality education is the social justice and civil rights issue of our time. I believe that we need to match that rhetoric with direct action."

"President Obama and Secretary Duncan must stop ducking this issue and answer immediately why it makes sense to deprive low-income kids of the opportunity to go to better schools. As a product himself of private school scholarships, the president`s actions are bizarre and misguided," said Walden Ford. "The bottom line is that it is morally wrong to block low-income children from attending great schools, and this Administration knows it."

"I am proud to stand in solidarity with low-income D.C. parents and their children who are being disenfranchised by this Administration`s failure to fully support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program," said Dr. Fuller. "If the President and Secretary Duncan want to keep their promise of `funding what works, regardless of ideology,` it`s time to walk the talk and stand up for a program that gives low income students in D.C. a way to seek a viable educational future."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senators Launch Bipartisan Effort to Save D.C. School Choice

Senator Lieberman Introduces Bill Preserving D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Cosponsors Include Diane Feinstein and Robert Byrd

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) today unveiled a bipartisan reauthorization bill for the D.C. school voucher program.

Lieberman, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and four other senators, introduced legislation this morning to reauthorize and strengthen the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) for five years. This move provides continued hope for thousands of low-income families in the District of Columbia who seek equal access to a quality education.

"This is not a liberal program or a conservative program, but a program that puts children first," Lieberman said. "And I am proud to say that it's working."

Under Senator Lieberman’s bill, the program would be preserved and strengthened significantly. The Lieberman bill would increase scholarship amounts to $9,000 for K-8 students and $11,000 for high school students—indexing the scholarship amounts to inflation. While these amounts remain significantly below the amounts for the D.C. Public Schools, they provide the necessary increases to account for inflation over the past five years.

The bill would also:

--Give scholarship priority to siblings of students who currently participate in the program
--Require participating schools to have a valid certificate of occupancy
--Require teachers of core subject matters to have bachelor’s degrees
--Require an Institute of Education Sciences annual evaluation of the program
--Require students to take nationally norm-referenced tests

To date, the program has allowed low-income children to receive up to $7,500 in scholarships to attend the private schools of their parent’s choice. Since its inception in 2004, the program has served more than 3,000 residents—primarily extremely low-income children. More than 8,000 families have applied for scholarships, demonstrating overwhelming demand.

The school choice initiative in the nation’s capital has been bolstered by more than five rigorous studies demonstrating positive student achievement outcomes and parental support. The OSP is supported by a majority of the D.C. City Council and has the backing of nearly three quarters of D.C. residents—according to a poll released this week.

In May, a similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH). Mr. Boehner is a longtime champion of the scholarship program and has spearheaded efforts in the House to preserve the program for low-income District families.

“Today’s action is a strong step in the right direction for low-income D.C. families,” said Kevin Chavous, the former D.C. City Councilman who is leading the fight to save the OSP. “We are pleased to see a strong, bipartisan effort to provide continued opportunity and hope to D.C. children through the extension and strengthening of the OSP.

Chavous added that efforts remain underway to save the educational futures of the so-called “D.C. 216”—a group of students who had their 2009-10 scholarship offerings revoked by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year. He applauded Senators Lieberman and Collins, as well as 12 other Senators, who had previously written to Secretary Duncan expressing support for these children to enter the program.

Friday, July 17, 2009

House Approves Publicly-Funded Abortions in D.C., Cans D.C. School-Vouchers

From LifeSiteNews
By Peter J. Smith

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill that allows the District of Columbia to fund abortions and legalize the consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but phases out a school-voucher program designed to help lower-income class parents send their children to a school of their choice.

Despite the opposition of a coalition of pro-life Democrats and Republicans, the Financial Services Appropriations bill passed Thursday evening by a 219-208 margin. The measure allocates $768 million in federal funding for the D.C. government, but reversed a long-standing Congressional ban that prohibited the federal district from using public money to subsidize abortions for lower-income women.

The Financial Services Appropriations bill also dropped a decade-long provision that prevented the federal district from legalizing medical marijuana through the initiative process. The bill also establishes a needle-exchange program for drug-users in order to slow the spread of HIV, but slashes $50 million from the government's anti-drug media campaign, reducing its budget to $20 million.

Although lower-income families may soon have public assistance to obtain abortions, the measure eliminates by 2010 the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided parents a voucher of $7,500 per child that gave them the freedom to send their children to the private school of their choice. The policy affected the education of 1,716 low-income students, but was opposed by teachers unions and the Obama Administration.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Monday, April 6, 2009

Democrats and Poor Kids

From Review and Outlook
The Wall Street Journal

Sitting on evidence of voucher success, and the battle of New York.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.

In New York City with its 1.1 million students, mayoral control has resulted in better test scores and graduation rates, while expanding charter schools, which means more and better education choices for low-income families. But mayoral control expires in June unless state lawmakers renew it, and the United Federation of Teachers is working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to weaken or kill it.

President Obama's stimulus is sending some $100 billion to the nation's school districts. What will he demand in return? The state budget passed by the New York legislature last week freezes funding for charters but increases it by more that $400 million for other public schools. Perhaps a visit to a charter school in Harlem would help Mr. Obama honor his reform pledge. "I'm looking at the data here in front of me," Mr. Duncan told the New York Post. "Graduation rates are up. Test scores are up. Teacher salaries are up. Social promotion was eliminated. Dramatically increasing parental choice. That's real progress."

Mr. Duncan's help in New York is in stark contrast to his department's decision to sit on a performance review of the D.C. voucher program while Congress debated its future in March. The latest annual evaluation was finally released Friday, and it shows measurable academic gains. The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides $7,500 vouchers to 1,700 low-income families in D.C. to send their children to private schools. Ninety-nine percent of the children are black or Hispanic, and there are more than four applicants for each scholarship.

The 2008 report demonstrated progress among certain subgroups of children but not everyone. This year's report shows statistically significant academic gains for the entire voucher-receiving population. Children attending private schools with the aid of the scholarships are reading nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers who did not receive vouchers. Voucher recipients are doing no better in math but they're doing no worse. Which means that no voucher participant is in worse academic shape than before, and many students are much better off.

"There are transition difficulties, a culture shock upon entering a school where you're expected to pay attention, learn, do homework," says Jay Greene, an education scholar at the Manhattan Institute. "But these results fit a pattern that we've seen in other evaluations of vouchers. Benefits compound over time."

It's bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

Opponents of school choice for poor children have long claimed they'd support vouchers if there was evidence that they work. While running for President last year, Mr. Obama told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that if he saw more proof that they were successful, he would "not allow my predisposition to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn . . . You do what works for the kids." Except, apparently, when what works is opposed by unions.

Mr. Duncan's office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You'd think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program. A reasonable conclusion is that Mr. Duncan's department didn't want proof of voucher success to interfere with Senator Dick Durbin's campaign to kill vouchers at the behest of the teachers unions.

The decision to let 1,700 poor kids get tossed from private schools is a moral disgrace. It also exposes the ugly politics that lies beneath union and liberal efforts across the country to undermine mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers or any reform that threatens their monopoly over public education dollars and jobs. The Sheldon Silver-Dick Durbin Democrats aren't worried that school choice doesn't work. They're worried that it does, and if Messrs. Obama and Duncan want to succeed as reformers they need to say so consistently.

Monday, March 16, 2009

DC Opportunity Scholarship Kids Appeal to Obama

The Obama administration faces quite a dilemma. Does it side with Democrats in Congress who are doing the bidding of self-serving teacher unions, and force poor, inner-city, minority students back into failing schools? Or will it allow students, some of whom are in class with Obama's own daughters, to continue in the schools their parents have chosen?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Putting Children Last

The Wall Street Journal

Democrats in Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate. And wouldn't you know, it's one that actually works and helps thousands of poor children.

We're speaking of the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools. The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.

This fight has nothing to do with saving money. But it has a lot to do with election-year politics. Kevin Chavis, the former D.C. City Council member who sits on the oversight board of the scholarship program, says, "If we were going to do what was best for the kids, then continuing it is a no-brainer. Those kids are thriving." More than 90% of the families express high satisfaction with the program, according to researchers at Georgetown University.

Many of the parents we interviewed describe the vouchers as a "Godsend" or a "lifeline" for their sons and daughters. "Most of the politicians have choices on where to send their kids to school," says William Rush, Jr., who has two boys in the program. "Why do they want to take our choices away?"

Good question. These are families in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. More than 80% of the recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic. Their average income is about $23,000 a year. But the teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down.

This explains why that self-styled champion of children's causes, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia, is leading the charge to kill the program. Ms. Norton contends that vouchers undermine support and funding for public schools. But the $18 million allocated to the program does not come out of the District school budget; Congress appropriates extra money for the vouchers.

The $7,500 voucher is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50% more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools. And we use the word "educate" advisedly because D.C. schools are among the worst in the nation. In 2007, D.C. public schools ranked last in math scores and second-to-last in reading scores for all urban public school systems on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Opponents claim there is no evidence that the D.C. scholarship program is raising academic achievement. The only study so far, funded by the federal Department of Education, found positive but "not statistically significant" improvements in reading and math scores after the first year. But education experts agree it takes a few years for results to start showing up. In other places that have vouchers, such as Milwaukee and Florida, test scores show notable improvement. A new study on charter schools in Los Angeles County finds big academic gains when families have expanded choices for educating their kids.

If the D.C. program continues for another few years, we will be able to learn more about the impact of vouchers on educational outcomes. The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn't because they're afraid it will fail. They're afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools. That's why former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Mayor Adrian Fenty, both Democrats, support the program.

"Hopefully," says Mr. Chavis, "Congress will focus on the kids, not the politics here." Barack Obama might call that the audacity of hope, if he finally showed the nerve to break with the unions on at least one issue and support these poor D.C. students.