School choice is helping low-income and minority families in D.C., and will do the same in South Carolina.
According to a recent study of the D.C. “Opportunity Scholarship Program,” students participating in the program are reading nearly a half-grade above students who did not receive scholarships. Additionally, parents of students with scholarships were more satisfied than the parents of children attending public schools, citing increased order and safety as reasons for their satisfaction.
Opponents of school choice, who claim that choice is just an opportunity for middle and upper class parents to benefit, will be interested to learn that 99% of the participants in the D.C. choice program are African American or Hispanic students from low-income families.
Despite the obvious benefits of the school choice program, some politicians are caving in to pressure from unions and other special interests to shut the program down.
This from a Wall Street Journal editorial–
“ It’s bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months…
Opponents of school choice for poor children have long claimed they’d support vouchers if there was evidence that they work. While running for President last year, Mr. Obama told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that if he saw more proof that they were successful, he would “not allow my predisposition to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn . . . You do what works for the kids.” Except, apparently, when what works is opposed by unions.
The editorial ends with a condemnation of politicians putting system over students-
“The decision to let 1,700 poor kids get tossed from private schools is a moral disgrace. It also exposes the ugly politics that lies beneath union and liberal efforts across the country to undermine mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers or any reform that threatens their monopoly over public education dollars and jobs.”
Unfortunately, the same ugly, political maneuvering is at work in South Carolina. There is no doubt that thousands of poor minority families are in desperate need of help, and no doubt that they would eagerly take advantage of a scholarship to get it. Despite this, many South Carolina legislators are more fearful of political pressure from education bureaucrats than they are motivated to step up and do something to improve the lives of families in their districts.
Arguments that school choice will not help poor families or improve academic performance do not hold water in light of programs established in other states. Florida, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania have school choice programs providing many thousands of families with access to good schools.
There is proof that school choice saves money, improves academics and provides equal access to quality schools.
The only remaining reasons for legislators to oppose school choice are ignorance of the issue, and fear of political pressure from the education establishment. Neither of these should be an acceptable option for someone who purports to represent the best interest of South Carolina families.