The issue is school choice. Are the Republicans aware of this issue?
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, as it is known, was launched in 2004 as the first federally funded program providing K-12 education grants. Though supporters say it gives poor students an alternative to the city’s underperforming public school system, teachers unions and other opponents say it draws sorely needed money away from the public system.
Lawmakers opposed to the program succeeded in eliminating it after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — who could not be reached for comment Tuesday — attached an amendment to a 2009 spending bill. President Obama stepped in and agreed to allow students currently enrolled to graduate. But the program is no longer accepting new applicants.
Lindsey Burke, a Heritage Foundation analyst also on Boehner’s guest list, said she hopes the proposed legislation finds an audience on the Hill.
“We know that demand is very high for the program,” she said. She said there were four applicants for every available scholarship when the program was accepting students and that graduation rates were far better than in the public system.
Under the program, low-income parents in the District of Columbia were eligible for grants worth up to $7,500 annually to send their kids to private school. According to statistics provided by the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the average household participating in the program earned just over $25,000 a year. There are still more than 1,000 students enrolled in the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Washington, D.C., has one of the most troubled public school systems in the country; its students consistently lag behind national averages on standardized testing. According to the scholarship program data, 93 percent of enrolled students would have otherwise attended an underperforming school in the District.
How much does it cost to provide a POOR education to one of these children?
The most common per-pupil figure used for D.C. Public Schools is an estimated $13,000. That figure is used by all of Washington’s major daily newspapers – The Washington Times, The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner. Local radio and TV stations quote that number as well. But the actual dollar amount is $24,600 – which is “roughly $10,000 more than the average for area private schools,” as Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute pointed out in his April 4 blog, “The Real Cost of Public Schools.”
Mr. Coulson did not use “new math” to come up with $24,600. He used simple arithmetic. Total funding for D.C. Public Schools this fiscal year (including federal dollars) was $1.216 billion. He divided that by the official enrollment figure of 49,422 and the sum became $24,606.
Also, Mr. Coulson averaged the published tuition costs for private schools in the region and came up with four figures: average tuition paid ($11,627); median tuition paid ($10,043); estimated average per-pupil spending ($14,534); and estimated median per-pupil spending ($12,534). Using simple math, we learned that average per-pupil spending at D.C. area private schools is $10,000 less than at D.C. Public Schools.
And more from the Washington Examiner.
In a presentation at the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Patrick Wolf, a University of Arkansas researcher who has studied school choice programs, including OPS, for the Department of Education, said that the data shows that public charter schools and voucher programs educate a higher percentage of disadvantaged and minority children on average than traditional public schools.
About 90 percent of OPS recipients are African American and 9 percent are Hispanic, Wolf says, with 17 percent diagnosed with disabilities. Their families’ average income of $17,356 is well below the federal poverty line. But they still managed to do slightly better than their peers in the District’s public schools.
You can get better performance for much less money, even with more disadvantaged children – it just takes vouchers.
The money for the vouchers would naturally come from closing down the schools that cannot satisfy parents, who will use the voucher to go elsewhere to buy their children’s education. Instead of a monopoly where customers are forced to pay for a product they don’t want just because of where they live (because they are POOR and cannot afford to live elsewhere), parents will have a choice of where to send their children, and schools will have to compete to please parents by providing a good product to buy – a quality education. It will turn the public school system from a monopoly into a free market, where the customer (parents) will be king, and the children will benefit. Only underperforming teachers and their allies in the Democrat party stand to lose.
If Republicans take steps to enact robust school choice using voucher programs NOW, then propose a national voucher program in the 2012 election, then they will win the 2012. This is the winning issue. We need to put the children first and put the underperforming adults last.
Must-see videos on education policy
- MUST-SEE: John Stossel’s documentary about public schools and school choice
- MUST-SEE: Cato Institute lady explains why competition is better than monopoly
- Do public school teachers want to give children a quality education?
- Sex-education video prompts mother to transfer out 7-year old daughter
- 10% of US students are subject to sexual misconduct by school staff
- How Obama’s new 2011 budget fails the poorest children in two ways
- How teacher unions lobby government to block educational reform
- What helps kids to learn? Parents, teacher unions or education bureaucrats?
- New study reveals how school choice benefits the poorest students
- Eleven schools teaching children to praise and worship Obama
- Do teacher unions care about providing high quality education?
- Does the education system discriminate against boys?
- NEA lawyer explains the real goals of teacher unions: money and power
- Are teacher unions interested in helping your children to succeed in life?
- Economist Walter Williams evaluates whether teachers are earning their huge salaries
- How teacher’s unions make war on charter schools