Who does school choice help most? You could make the case it’s people like Washington, DC single mother Deborah Green and her daughter Tanisha Bethea. Look:
When she was not satisfied with her daughter’s education, [Deborah Green] took advantage of the only option she could afford — enrolling Tanisha in a charter school during middle school.
However, teachers at the charter school told the 53-year-old single mother that her daughter could do better in a more challenging environment and urged her to put Tanisha into private school.
“Her teachers were feeling she had potential, and I needed to get her out of there,” she said.
The only problem was Miss Green could not afford it. In 2005, a co-worker told her about the Opportunity Scholarship.
She jumped at the chance, and when Tanisha won a voucher, she enrolled at Dupont Park Adventist School, a small Christian school in Southeast.
The difference was dramatic, Miss Green said.
Tanisha had to learn how to do more homework because her schoolwork was more demanding. She learned self-discipline and stopped procrastinating. Her mother said she began working harder when more was expected of her.
“More so with the private school, I see she’s working to get that grade,” Miss Green, inside her small but cozy apartment in Anacostia, said at the end of May, just before school let out for the summer.
Tanisha spends hours in the afternoon doing her homework, she said.
“Private schools expect a lot more than public and charter schools, so that’s good,” said Tanisha, a shy but articulate teenager. “It was more about applying yourself, and I wasn’t used to that. It seems like they’re preparing you for college.”
There were differences outside of academics, too.
“It’s strict,” Tanisha said. She was home from school for the afternoon, and had changed from her school uniform into a camouflage tank top. “I have a little trouble with that, but I can adjust.”
It’s no wonder that the parents who have tried it are ready to fight so hard to keep choice alive. Politicians who would deprive children of their opportunities will have to deal with…well, with this:
[Deborah Green] said she is ready to hit the streets in protest when the program comes up for reauthorization in Congress next year in what is expected to be a fierce confrontation.
“We’re going to have a battle,” she said. “I’m ready to do that because they need to keep the program going. Without it, the students don’t have a choice, and I don’t think that’s fair.”