Psssst, WaPo, Your Bias Is Showing!

May 2, 2016

(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

Congress voted on Friday to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and the Washington Post‘s headline could barely contain its exasperation:

GOP House passes D.C. private schools voucher program. Again.

Cute, right? But it gets better. (And by “better” I mean “worse.”)

Here’s how the WaPo reporter characterized support for the program:

Local D.C. leaders have long been against the voucher program, arguing that it diverts money and students away from the public school system. But federal funding for the local schools system is tied to the legislation, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and some council members have expressed support for the bill.

So unnamed “local D.C. leaders” oppose the voucher program, but the Democratic mayor and “some” council members support it. How many council members?

Bowser and eight council members wrote in a March letter to congressional leaders that a reauthorization of the act is “critical to the gains that the District’s public education system has seen.”

Eight members supported the voucher program… Well how many members are on the D.C. city council? Thirteen, you say? So more than 60 percent of the council supports the voucher program and WaPo calls that “some.”

Throw in support from the current mayor and previous Democratic D.C. Mayors Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, and even Marion Barry (!), and WaPo‘s characterization that “local D.C. leaders have long been against the voucher program” looks even more ridiculous. Given that the majority of the city council and the majority of recent mayors support the OSP–to say nothing of the longstanding support from the WaPo editorial board–it would be equally if not more true to say that “local D.C. leaders have long supported the voucher program.” At the very least, WaPo could have actually named a few of the voucher opponents who are “local leaders” (the article cites only D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton) and written “local D.C. leaders have long been divided over the voucher program.”

WaPo, you can do better than that.


DC’s Frog Vouchers Becoming Princely

June 19, 2012

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

We interrupt this discussion of Prince lyrics to bring you an important announcement about another kind of prince!

You may have seen the news that a bipartisan coalition of voucher champions in Congress have once again saved the D.C. voucher program. What you may not have heard is the amazing news buried in the story:

The 1,615-student cap on enrollment will now be lifted and as many children as meet the income threshold will be able to apply.

Wow! The D.C. program has long been one of the biggest frogs of the voucher universe. What would it be like if it became a prince?

No opinion about who is the “princess” in this story is expressed or implied. But Boehner did tear up on TV that one time. Just saying.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion of Prince lyrics.

It’s Hammertime!

April 20, 2011

No, not that one.  Check out this Hammertime, which effectively presents the positive results from the DC voucher program despite false claims of no benefits from the Obama administration.

Voucher Steamroller Continues with DC Victory

April 9, 2011

In the last minute budget deal last night, congressional leaders and the White House agreed to reauthorize the DC voucher program.  This occurred despite Obama and Duncan falsely declaring last week:

Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement. The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students.  Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.

I’ve lost count of how many new or expanded private school choice programs we’ve seen this year, but I am sure that Greg is well on his way to victory in his bet with Jay Mathews.

Big Day for Parental Choice

March 31, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Yesterday the Indiana House passed  a bill to create what seems likely to become the nation’s largest school voucher program, and to improve and expand their preexisting tuition tax credit law. On the same day, the United States House voted to reauthorize the DC Opportunity Scholarship program.

Indiana is poised to do something very special. Under the leadership of Governor Daniels and Superintendent Bennett, they are on the cusp of pushing through major Florida reforms: transparency with teeth (A-F school grading), action against social promotion and parental choice. The rest of us are going to have to pick up our games to try to keep pace.

The long-suffering DC Opportunity Scholarship Program children have suffered through the trials of Job. Kudos to Speaker Boehner for putting his back into delivering a happy ending for these kids!

Hold tight reform fans…the best is yet to come.

BAEO to President Obama: Actions Speak Louder than Words

October 2, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

BAEO took out a full page ad in the NYT to blast President Obama for the gap between his rhetoric and his administration’s participation in the pillow smothering of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

DC Vouchers Boost Graduation Rate

June 22, 2010

(Guest post by Matthew Ladner)

The Department of Education released the final report of the evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program today.  The major finding of this report, and it is MAJOR, is that students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate.  That’s 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn’t receive vouchers.  Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher.  Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren’t offered vouchers–and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!

This is a huge finding.  The sorry state of graduation rates, especially for disadvantaged students, has been the single largest indicator that America’s schools are failing to give every student an equal chance at success in life.  Graduating high school is associated with a number of critical life outcomes, ranging from lifetime earnings to incarceration rates.  And, despite countless efforts and attempts at reform, changing the dismal state of graduation rates has been an uphill battle. 

Of course, the uphill battle will continue.   As most are aware, Congress voted to kill the DC voucher program last year, despite evidence that the program had significantly improved reading achievement for students who received scholarships.  That evidence didn’t count for much when faced with opposition from teachers’ unions.

In the final report, the reading achievement findings just miss the Department of Education’s threshold for statistical significance.  As a result, the spin put out by the administration claims that there is “No conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement.”  This is wrong of course.  Last year’s (third year) report DID find conclusive evidence that the Program raised student achievement in reading.  A close read of this year’s final report reveals that the sample size of students in the final year was smaller because a number of the students participating in the study had graded-out of the Program.  It’s not surprising then that the statistical significance of the reading effects fell just short of the required level.  Still, with a p-value of .06, we can say that we are 94% certain that the treatment group did outperform the control group in reading in the final year.  Moreover, the final report found statistically significant achievement gains for 3 of the 6 subgroups they examined.

In sum, the five-year evaluation of the DC voucher program has shown that low-income students who recieved scholarships have higher graduation rates, higher student achievement, increased parental views of safety, and increased parent satisfaction.  There was not one single negative finding over the entire course of the evaluation.  I’d say that’s quite a success for a program that spent a fraction of the per-pupil amount spent in DC public schools.

So when does the re-authorization begin?