Inner City Kids and The Politics That Abandons Them

We are all aware of the dismal condition of our inner city schools. These children, largely composed of minorities, are trapped in schools that have become little more than lousy daycare centers. Dropping out seems a more reasonable option for many of these children.

We all agree that education is the key to lifting kids out of poverty and a cycle of dependency on the government.

When I was in 3rd grade I was part of the integration of black and white schoolchildren in Mississippi in the 1960’s. Black children finally had access to the same educational opportunities as white children. And yet here we are, decades later, and we still have schools exactly like the ones black children were trapped in all those years ago.

Imagine if there was a way to give these children an opportunity to excel in academics. Imagine if parents who yearn for a safe learning environment could actually choose a better school for their kids despite all the odds.

Well, we don’t have to imagine it. We have it in many states. But they are about to lose it in Washington D.C. because of the Obama’s administration’s refusal to support it.

Some 1,700 Washington D.C. schoolchildren rely on the District’s school voucher program. This program works.

As The Washington Examiner points out:

Studies of the six-year-old Opportunity Scholarship Program by Georgetown University, the Manhattan Institute and the Department of Education itself have found that vouchers foster tremendous parental satisfaction, impressive educational results and a greater degree of voluntary racial integration than in regular public schools in Washington.

Here we are at the root of the problem of poverty and despair in the inner city. Here we give these children opportunity they would never have otherwise. Is anything more important than this to advance the standard of living for so many minorities? Yet, Pres. Obama, our first African American President, refuses to intervene to save this popular program from congressional Democrats who, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, are determined to kill it. They should be ashamed. They are literally turning their back on the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., who saw a day when all children, no matter what color, would be able to have access to the best education possible.

The program is affordable and it works. The reading effects of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program show the largest achievement impact of any education policy program yet evaluated in a randomized control trial by the U.S. Department of Education. Why would the Obama administration be against this? Simple. The NEA. With voucher programs this powerful teacher’s union loses control and power. Heaven forbid we give parents more control.

Could there be anything more important in the black community than finding ways for urban children to get a decent education? Where is Jesse Jackson? Where is Al Sharpton? They should be leading marches for this voucher program. They should be demanding more programs like this throughout the country.

But as The Washington Examiner points out, liberal politics trumps principle. A Democratically controlled Congress voted in March not to fund the program, but local leaders protested loudly. Teachers unions say vouchers are a waste of tax money that could be better spent improving public schools. Oh yes, right. Since all the money we’ve spent so far as done so much. We spend more and more every year, yet nothing ever gets better for the urban schools. The voucher program has proven that with less money it can give students what they need. It needs to be expanded, not killed.

The program was created as a five-year pilot project by a Republican-controlled Congress in early 2004, the Opportunity Scholarship Program is the nation’s only federally funded voucher program. And there is the rub. I believe that many Democrats just refuse to give credit to a program that works that was created by Republicans. That might dispel the Democrats narrative of Republicans not caring about the inner city poor. A narrative that is false to begin with.

To see what these scholarships mean to these parents, look at Joe Kelly:

Joe Kelley entered his oldest son, Rashawn, in the first Opportunity Scholarship Program lottery in 2004, fearful about violence at the public middle school. Rashawn, now 17, received a voucher, and so have his three sisters. All attend a small, private Christian academy where they have been earning A’s and B’s. “It’s a lot of worry off of me,” said Mr. Kelley, a retired cook and youth counselor.

I think Kelley speaks for so many parents. Taking “the worry” off of them is a profound and wonderful thing. The Obama administration is letting these parents and students down. And that’s a crying shame.

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