WASHINGTON, D.C. – Valentine’s Day came early last week for the American Federation of Teachers.
Last Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled his budget for 2013 which contains $3.8 trillion in spending – but not a dime of support for the very successful D.C. voucher program.
The AFT has long opposed the Opportunity Scholarship Program (the voucher plan’s official name) because it allows low-income students in the District of Columbia to escape the union-controlled dropout factories known as D.C. Public Schools. Since 2004, thousands of students have been given vouchers ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 to attend the private school of their choice.
In the AFT’s view, not only do vouchers siphon off dollars that should be going to “their” schools, but the success many voucher students achieve through the program exposes the deficiencies of union-run schools. That’s why it wants to shut down the program.
And Obama has been a willing accomplice. He tried to snuff out the Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2009 by announcing that no new students would be allowed to join. House Speaker John Boehner got it restored through 2016 as part of last year’s budget deal, but that is in jeopardy, as Obama’s budget makes clear.
According to the American Federation for Children, OSP students have a “91 percent graduation rate (which) is 21 percentage points higher than those who applied but couldn’t get a scholarship.”
“And according to the Institute of Education Sciences – the primary research arm of the U.S. Department of Education – the OSP has the second highest achievement impact of any of the programs it has studied so far,” the group writes in a press release.
WJLA.com interviewed one woman who has four children in the voucher program.
“I didn’t feel [my kids] were getting the proper education in public school and they get the best education here,” Antonia Colessaid. “Without the scholarship, I don’t know what I would do.”
But none of that seems to matter to the president, who is facing a tough re-election campaign and needs the money and enthusiasm of his friends in the education establishment. He’s willing to compromise the futures of thousands of D.C.-area children just to keep Big Labor happy.
Meanwhile, the president’s two daughters are attending an expensive private school in D.C., because he can afford to send them there.
The AFT delivered its valentine to the president last week, when it officially endorsed his re-election bid. And now the president has delivered his valentine to the AFT, in the form of a voucher-free budget proposal.
Oh, the things we do for love … and the things politicians do for votes.