Mercedes Campbell is one of the 1,700 students in the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school-voucher program authorized by Congress in 2004. The program gives students up to $7,500 to attend whatever school their parents choose. For kids like Mercedes, who now attends Georgetown Visitation Prep, the DC voucher program is a way out of one of the worst school districts in the country.
"It's different, now that I go to Visitation," says Mercedes. "I approach things differently. It's like a whole new world, basically."
The program is wildly popular with parents and children—there are four applicants for every available slot—and a recent Department of Education study found that participants do significantly better than their public school peers. Indeed, after three years in private schools, students who entered the program at its inception were 19 months ahead in reading of applicants unlucky enough to still be trapped in D.C.'s public schools.
Yet working with congressional Democrats and despite his pledge to put politics and ideology aside in education, the Obama administration has effectively killed the program through a backdoor legislative move. "[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars," says the president. "It's not whether it's liberal or conservative, but whether it works."
That sort of doublespeak has left many Obama supporters not just puzzled but outraged. Certainly, Mercedes is. "Out of everything else they can shut down or everything else they can advocate for, they want to take this one thing away?" Adds her mother, Ingrid, "We voted for you, we walked, we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why?…Can you get this tape over to Obama and have him answer our questions? Why, sir, why?"
That's the question that will be asked on Wednesday, May 6, from 1P.M. to 2P.M., at a D.C. rally to reauthorize the voucher program. For more details, go here.
"Barack Obama and the DC School Voucher Program" is approximately 5.30 minutes long and was produced by Dan Hayes and Nick Gillespie.
For iPod and HD versions, links to sources and related stories, and more, go to Reason.tv.