Examiner Editorial: Allow US senators to vote on DC school choice 

More than 1,900 students in our nation’s capital have benefitted from the Opportunity Scholarship Program that provided private school scholarships and a way to flee the chronically dysfunctional District of Columbia Public Schools system.

The U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama has acknowledged the program’s success, with the authors of the agency’s most recent study concluding that students in the program “were performing at statistically higher levels in reading, equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning.” Despite this record of success for the program, which was approved by Congress in 2004, Obama and the Democratic Congress have eliminated its funding, leaving these students and their parents with no alternative but to return to the failing DCPS.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., however, has been pushing the Senate for months to revive the program and restore hope for its participants. When he offered an amendment earlier this week to the Senate jobs bill, it appeared he would succeed. But Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada refused to allow the Senate to vote on Lieberman’s amendment. It’s not hard to figure out why: When Washington, D.C.’s biggest special interest group says jump, Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats ask how high.

That group, of course, is the National Education Association. When the Center for Responsive Politics added up all the campaign contribution data for the 2008 election cycle, it turned out that the NEA topped the list, spending more than $57 million on federal and state races, 90 percent of which went to Democrats. So far in the 2010 election cycle, the NEA’s pattern of heavily supporting Democrats continues, with 16 Senate Democrats facing re-election battles, including Reid, receiving contributions averaging more than $2,100 each.

For years, the NEA has been on a mission to kill all traces of school choice programs. Why? Because nothing so threatens the monopoly grip of the heavily unionized public school system than an attractive alternative for students and parents.

Lieberman’s amendment would have done just that for the 1,900 participants in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships program. As Lindsay Burke and Virginia Walden Ford said recently in National Review, the NEA’s ardent opposition to school choice is rich with irony: “Too many of today’s schools are failing African-American and Hispanic students. In the 1950s, politicians stood at the door to keep African-American students out. Now, they are standing at the door to keep them in.”

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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