White House

Today, a bill that would restore and expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP)—the flagship school choice program for low-income schoolchildren in the nation’s capital—will hit the House floor for a vote.

Despite the program’s track record of success and the overwhelming support from parents and D.C. residents, the program has been under attack since the Obama Administration came to town in 2009. And even as the bill, sponsored by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), comes up for a vote today, the Administration continues to argue against the program. But we’re not convinced—and neither is The Washington Post.

In response to a statement issued by the White House yesterday, which claimed that “rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.,” the Post writes:

That dismissal might come as a surprise to Patrick J. Wolf, the principal investigator who helped conduct the rigorous studies of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and who has more than a decade of experience evaluating school choice programs.

Here’s what Mr. Wolf had to say about the program in Feb. 16 testimony to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Operations. “In my opinion, by demonstrating statistically significant experimental impacts on boosting high school graduation rates and generating a wealth of evidence suggesting that students also benefited in reading achievement, the DC OSP has accomplished what few educational interventions can claim: It markedly improved important education outcomes for low-income inner-city students.”

The study results revealed that 91 percent of DCOSP students graduate, compared to 70 percent of their peers with similar characteristics and compared to roughly 55 percent of all D.C. public school students. Beyond this, the study also showed an upward trend in reading scores for DCOSP students.

The Post continues:

There are, we believe, other benefits to a program that expands educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. The program, which provides vouchers of $7,500 to low-income, mainly minority students to attend private schools, is highly regarded by parents, who often feel it allows their children to attend safer schools or ones that strongly promote achievement.

Beyond the many testimonies of parents praising the program’s success, Dr. Wolf’s study provides evidence by the numbers verifying the statistically increased rates of parental satisfaction with their children’s schools as a result of the program.

The Post concludes:

Given that this program takes no money away from public or public charter schools; that the administration does not object to parents directing Pell grants to Notre Dame or Georgetown; and that members of the administration would never accept having to send their own children to failing schools, we don’t think the argument is very persuasive. Maybe that’s why an administration that promised never to let ideology trump evidence is making an exception in this case.