Compared to President Obama's other initiatives, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program barely registers on the government’s balance sheet. Yet the $7,500 scholarships for poor children are apparently still too costly for a White House beholden to Big Labor.
The Obama administration has officially declared its opposition to the SOAR Act
, legislation approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives that would restore funding to the program for low-income families in the District of Columbia. Obama and congressional Democrats put the program on life support
before Republicans seized control of the House.
“While the President's FY 2012 Budget requests funding to improve D.C. public schools and expand high-quality public charter schools, the Administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child,” the Obama administration declared in its policy statement.
The administration’s justification: Scholarships have not yielded improved student achievement. Unfortunately for Obama, that statement runs counter to what the administration’s own Department of Education reported in a federal evaluation
That report showed satisfaction was higher for parents of scholarship students, schools attended by scholarship students were safer, and most importantly, graduation rates were higher for students in the program
Obama’s opposition suggests there’s more at stake than just money. After all, scholarships cost $7,500 per students. By comparison, per-pupil spending at D.C. public schools exceeds $17,600. The program should be considered a bargain by those standards
Then there’s the fact that the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program helps some of the poorest students in crime-ridden and under-performing schools find better options -- and gives them a greater chance of success in life
. Families struggling to put food on the table simply don’t have the financial resources to do that on their own.
For a White House seeking moderation before 2012, it's apparently still too controversial to support a program that enjoys the support of a bipartisan group of lawmakers
but is deeply resented by teachers unions and Obama’s labor union allies.
That’s unfortunate, and especially ironic given the large number of liberal politicians who capitalize on school choice
for their own personal reasons.
Shortly after settling in Washington, Obama -- himself a beneficiary of a private-school education -- enrolled his children at a elite private school
in Maryland. In the Senate, Democrat Dick Durbin, who is leading the crusade to kill the program, attended private school as a child and sent his kids to private school
That’s the kind of hypocrisy that drives people nuts about Washington. But as long as it keeps Big Labor happy, Obama apparently doesn’t much care about the poor kids down the street.