Paying Lip Service to Martin Luther King’s Dream
Congress is getting ready to gear up for another battle that will pit the political clout of public-school teachers against the future of America’s children. “Why do so many Democrats seem to favor the teachers’ unions over poor minority students?” questions Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
There is no disputing that the Washington, D.C., school system is one of the worst in the nation. Although D.C. schools spend nearly $30,000 per student each year, more than a third of students fail to graduate. In a test to determine whether high-school students were college ready, only 10 percent of D.C. students met proficiency standards in math, and just a quarter met the reading standards. The story is even worse for black students; only 4 percent met the math standards. Violence is an ever-present threat in many schools.
The failure of D.C.’s schools has profound and long-lasting consequences. For example, we know that nearly 29 percent of people aged 25 and over who did not have a high-school diploma lived in poverty in 2014, compared to 14.2 percent of high-school graduates with no college, and just 5 percent of college graduates. And those high-school dropouts will stay poor. With all the talk about poverty and inequality that we hear, let’s remember that a failing public-school system is one of the reasons for those problems.
President Bush in 2004 established the Opportunity Scholarship Program to provide scholarships (vouchers) for low-income D.C. families who could only dream of sending their children to private schools in the District, including religiously affiliated schools.
President Obama tried to kill the program when he took office, but the Republican Congress revived it over his objections in 2012.
The scholarships are targeted to those students most in need. The average household income for families participating in the program is under $21,000. More than 83 percent of those families are African-American, and another 14 percent are Hispanic/Latino.
Mr. Tanner explains, “… the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program actually does something for those children who need help most. It provides D.C.’s poorest residents with the same educational choices President Obama and highly paid lobbyists enjoy.”
Read more here from Mr. Tanner who says it is really a simple choice: “poor, minority children, or wealthy, powerful unions.” Meanwhile, on Martin Luther King Day, how many Washington elites will be paying lip service to Mr. King’s dream?