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InsiderOnline Blog: June 2008

Congress Ponders Leaving More D.C. Students Behind

The District of Columbia’s non-Representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is leading a charge to eliminate federal funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program allows 1,900 low-income students to attend a private school of their choice—and escape some of the worst schools in the country. Heritage’s Dan Lips has written extensively about the problems in the D.C. public schools. His report, Improving Education in the Nation’s Capitol, notes the following:

• In 2005, the District’s public schools had a dropout rate higher than that of any state’s schools.

• In 2007, D.C. students’ reading scores were lower than the scores achieved by students in any other state.

• The District graduates only 59 percent of students, again one of the lowest marks in the country.

• D.C. ranks first in the nation for percent of budget spend on administration and last in the nation on percent of budget spent on instruction.

• In 2006, 15,000 of Washington’s elementary school students attended schools without an art teacher, and 12,000 students attended schools without a music teacher.

• The per­centage of students in grades 9 through 12 who “reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during the previous 12 months” was 12 percent in 2005. That was the highest rate in the nation and well above the average of 7 percent across the country.

The D.C. public schools achieve such results at a cost of $14,800 per student. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, meanwhile, provides vouchers worth $7,500. According to a survey by Georgetown University, 90 percent of parents express satisfaction with the program.

The Wall Street Journal identifies the reason that Norton and other Democrats in Congress are opposed to the program:

If the D.C. program continues for another few years, we will be able to learn more about the impact of vouchers on educational outcomes. The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn’t because they’re afraid it will fail. They’re afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools.

Posted on 06/13/08 12:27 PM by Alex Adrianson

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