“Congress created the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program in the District to give the city’s poorest children a chance at a better education than their neighborhood schools offer,” the Post explained. “But a Washington Post review found that hundreds of students use their voucher dollars to attend schools that are unaccredited or are in unconventional settings, such as a family-run K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted Deanwood residence, and a school built around the philosophy of a Bulgarian psychotherapist.”
The newspaper’s objection seems to be less about quality and more about control.
“At a time when public schools face increasing demands for accountability and transparency, the 52 D.C. private schools that receive millions of federal voucher dollars are subject to few quality controls and offer widely disparate experiences, the Post found,” it wrote. “Some of these schools are heavily dependent on tax dollars, with more than 90 percent of their students paying with federal vouchers. Yet the government has no say over curriculum, quality or management. And parents trying to select a school have little independent information, relying mostly on marketing from the schools.”
Yes, that’s the point.
It’s not hard to understand why. The D.C. public schools are a notorious wreck. Its current budget is $1.22 billion, to educate 43,866 students in 139 schools. That’s a per-student spending rate of about $28,000. Yet nearly half of the district’s students drop out before completing high school. Nearly all campuses fail to meet even the dismally low expectations set by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
Michelle Rhee famously attempted reforms when she was at the head of D.C. schools from 2007-2010, but teachers unions and other public officials fought her at every turn, and today the schools are some of the worst in the nation.
The Post acknowledges students benefit from the vouchers.
“In the District, it’s clear that vouchers have provided many children with an education at well-established private schools that otherwise would have been out of reach, and their parents rave about the opportunity,” the Post says. “Of the 1,584 District students now receiving vouchers, more than half attend Catholic schools and a handful are enrolled at prestigious independent schools such as Sidwell Friends, where President Obama sends his daughters.”
Obama wants to phase out the vouchers program. If he’s successful, he’ll be taking away choices from poor parents, and opportunities for poor children.