September 1 2009
Will President Obama at Least Take a Stand on Student Safety?
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
It isn't bad enough that education politics as usual in the nation's capital is putting former D.C. Opportunity Scholarship recipients at academic risk by forcing them back into failing public schools. A just-released report from the Heritage Foundation and the Lexington Institute now shows D.C. public schools-and the special interest politics behind them-are putting children's physical safety at risk. The report finds, "Statistics show that the D.C. public school system is one of the most dangerous in the country." Compared to district public schools D.C. public charter schools and private schools are much safer, based on the number of 911 calls to the police, 3,500 from traditional public schools during the 2007-08 school year versus 232 from private schools and 82 from charter schools. Importantly, the new report also shows the 70 public schools former D.C Opportunity Scholarship students' are now forced to attend are among the most dangerous in the District-not surprising because Education Secretary Arne Duncan rescinded their scholarships so late in the year, safe schools had no room. So now those students must attend public schools like Ballou Senior High School, where in 2004 football star James Richardson was shot. As his aunt and single mother of two Latasha Bennett recently testified before Congress, "I already lost a nephew to the D.C. schools....His assigned neighborhood school was unsafe and had low expectations for the students. I wonder if he would be sitting here today as a success story, if a scholarship had been available for him to attend a private school." On September 8, 2009, President Obama will kick-off the new school year with a speech about the importance of persisting and succeeding in school. Perhaps he'll have an answer for Ms. Bennett and the parents of hundreds other children at risk in D.C. as to why they can't be safe and succeeding in school like his daughters are.