President Barack Obama may have written a best-selling book with the word “audacity” in the title, but so far Education Secretary Arne Duncan is the member of his administration that best embodies that word. Secretary Duncan wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week “When parents recognize which schools are failing to educate their children, they will demand more effective options for their kids. They won’t care whether they are charters, non-charters or some other model. … We must close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology. In the path to a better education system, that’s the only test that really matters.”

These lines were published under Duncan’s name a mere 16 days after he sent letters to 200 District of Columbia low-income families informing them that he was taking back the $7,500 in scholarship money that the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program had previously awarded them. And those letters were sent months after a Department of Education study showed the students in the scholarship program the longest performed at reading level approximately 1.5 to 2 full school years ahead of students who applied but were not lucky enough to be admitted to the program.

The evidence is in. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program works. But instead of “pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology” Duncan did the exact opposite. He moved to kill the program by sending the rescission letters mentioned above. The Washington Post explained why:

It’s clear, though, from how the destruction of the program is being orchestrated, that issues such as parents’ needs, student performance and program effectiveness don’t matter next to the political demands of teachers’ unions.

Duncan is not the only politician audaciously putting politics and teacher union dollars ahead of students and what works. The annual Heritage Foundation survey of Congress and school choice shows that 38% of Members of the 111th Congress sent a child to private school at one time. According to our analysis, if Members who exercised school choice for their own children had recently voted in favor of protecting the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, it would have been protected from Secretary Duncan’s efforts to kill it. Most gallingly, the Senator who offered the Amendment to make the scholarship program vulnerable, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) not only went to private school himself, but he also sends his own children to private school.

While Members of the 111th Congress have embraced school choice for their own families, they should also support policies that give other families the opportunity to choose their children’s schools. All families should have the opportunity to send their children to a school that is safe and offers a quality education.

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