WaPo: A Plea to Mr. Duncan

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Washington Post brings it again on behalf of the victims of Department of Education’s slavish decision to deny over 200 children access to the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Seven council members — including those who represent the poorest sections of the city — wrote to Mr. Duncan on June 22 challenging his decision not to admit new students to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The federally funded program provides vouchers of up to $7,500 so that low-income students can attend schools of their choice. Because the program’s future is uncertain, Mr. Duncan decided — disappointingly to our mind — to rescind scholarships awarded to 216 families for this upcoming school year.

Ooops, there goes the local control argument. Perhaps Mr. Duncan and company would like to stand up and confess “We’d like to help these kids, but sadly, we toil as the servile minions of teacher union thugs. Please don’t pay attention to what we do, but rather to what we say. Move along, nothing to see here…”

4 Responses to WaPo: A Plea to Mr. Duncan

  1. allen says:

    That’s $1,620,000 for those 216 families assuming one kid per family. Considering the various moneybags interested in school reform it ought to be a doable amount of money to keep a voucher program in operation in the nations navel.

  2. Why should private donors assume this burden? I’m sure we can find a small school district somewhere where the annual teacher payroll is $1.6 million. How about if we ask private donors to pay for that too?

  3. Greg Forster says:

    Besides, the real cost of keeping the program going is not the cost of 200 kids, but the cost of 2,000 kids – if there are no new entrants to the program, eventually everybody has to be privately funded.

    More important, though: if you were moneybags and you had $1.6 million to devote to promoting school reform, would this be the best use of your money?

  4. allen says:

    Why should private donors assume this burden? Because if you’ve got a pile of money with which you’d like to reform public education then there’s symbolic and political value in keeping this program operating in the nation’s capital.

    One reason to keep the program going is continuity. The political winds of change are blowing through the public education system and restarting the program when those winds again blow favorably would require overcoming a natural skepticism among parents were the program allowed to die.

    Another reason would be to deprive opponents of the program of a victory. Credibility in politics springs from success and supporting the program with private donations would undercut the credibility of the victory removing any question about the purpose of ending the program.

    I would point out that the opponents of the program wanted to zero it out and had to settle for the compromise of grandfathering the currently-enrolled kids through high school. Clearly, however powerful the public education lobby is it doesn’t have everything its own way and keeping the program running would underscore that weakness.

    Those considerations would make this a very good place for me, as a moneybags with $1.6 million, to spend my money and “very good” is good enough. If I had another $1.6 million then I might be able to undertake some project that wasn’t the equivalent of fire-fighting with the potential to yeild greater long-term benefits.

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