March 16 2010
Vicki E. Alger
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) plans to introduce an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would revive the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The Washington Post takes on the leading fallacies opponents are making-again-against the program. Here's the blow-by-blow:
• The National Education Association claims the program "has yielded no evidence of positive academic impact on the students the program was designed to assist." ...To those who claim that the program hasn't helped targeted students, we offer the results of the rigorous scientific study that Congress insisted on when the pilot program was launched in 2004. "The D.C. voucher program has proven to be the most effective education policy evaluated by the federal government's official education research arm so far," wrote Patrick J. Wolf, principal investigator for the Education Department's study.
• Americans United for Separation of Church and State says vouchers have "taken money away from the D.C. public schools."...In fact, additional federal funds were directed to the city's traditional public and charter schools as part of the three-sector initiative establishing the voucher program. If, as critics claim, public schools are suffering, why has D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee emerged as one of the strongest advocates of continuing the voucher program? Unlike some members of Congress, she has a hard time consigning children to dismal futures.
• Others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say it's improper to use taxpayer dollars to fund the religious education of children...[C]harges about it being inappropriate to use public money for religious schools ignore the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such scholarship programs to be constitutional in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Parents can choose to spend their scholarships in parochial schools or secular schools, just as older students do with federal Pell grants.
The Post rightly concludes:
Perhaps the most important thing being overlooked is the experiences of the parents whose children have been able to go to better schools because vouchers afforded them the means to make that choice. Over and over, parents cite their satisfaction with schools that are safer, where students are more respectful and where teachers better meet their children's needs. Politicians like to say they want to do what is best for kids; here's their chance.