February 3 2010
The President's Budget: "No Justifiable Reason" for Killing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
President Obama told the nation last week, "Like any cash-strapped family" his administration would "work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't." (See pp. 9-10). This week the president presented his budget. At $3.8 trillion, it is considered "one of the greatest spend-while-you-can documents in American history." Even the New York Times admitted to feeling "sticker shock."
Still, buried within the appendix of president's budget (p. 1244) is a $3.8 million cut to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP), which reduces funding for this much-needed program from $13.2 million to $9.4 million.
To put this into better perspective, consider that eliminating about $4 million from a nearly $4 trillion budget is like someone earning $400,000 cutting back by 40 cents a year. To Opportunity Scholarship students, however, that pocket change represents a chance for a better education and a brighter future. As the president himself put it: "there is no better anti-poverty program than a world-class education."
On this, there is agreement across the political spectrum. In a joint letter to the President last week, House Republican Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) wrote:
The D.C. OSP has the overwhelming support of D.C. residents, parents, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Rhee, former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and a majority of the D.C. City Council. As efforts are made to turn-around D.C.'s underachieving public schools we must reauthorize the D.C. OSP to ensure that low-income D.C. students have access to quality education today, and we need to ensure that the same number of students is able to participate as in recent years. We hope you will agree that there is no justifiable reason to end this program and that you will work with us to guarantee the future of the D.C. OSP program.
Apparently the president doesn't agree. What's more, his budget clearly states that it will fund "only those students currently enrolled in the program," and "it is expected that this will be the final request for Federal funding to support the Opportunity Scholarship program. (See the "School Improvement" section of "Other Independent Agencies" on p. 1244). So much for the president's promise "to change the way Washington does business."