Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for trying to close Washington D.C.’s federally backed voucher pilot program that has enabled thousands of students from the city to attend private schools.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program was established by Congress a decade ago, but when Obama took office he ended new applications. The President wanted to end the program entirely but allowed students already in the program to continue as a compromise gesture. Speaker John A. Boehner has fought to renew the program and after Republicans took control of the House last year funding for the OSP was included in the initial yearlong spending bill signed by the President. However, the President’s 2013 budget does not include any funding for the program.
The OSP currently provides scholarships to more than 1’600 low income children. Kevin Chavous, a senior advisor to the American Federation for Children has implied that its somewhat hypocritical for Obama to be shutting down this program which provides access to private education when he wouldn’t have achieved his current position without a private school scholarship.
“The president says he’s for education reform, but his actions continually aim to send low-income and minority students back to schools that are failing them academically, are unsafe, or are otherwise not meeting their needs.
“This latest hypocrisy is just the most recent instance in which the president has stood in the way of students who are improving test scores and graduating in higher numbers.”
Steve Gunn from Education Action Group has asked that both candidates for this year’s Presidential election start taking education seriously. He cites a recent poll that indicates 67% of registered voters in swing states consider public education to be one of the most important current issues. Typically this level of concern would solicit immediate reaction from candidates, but both are so far relatively quiet on education — perhaps because it is not traditionally seen as an election battleground issue. The American public knows it is one now though, as America faces a public education crisis with worrying numbers of failing schools and test scores that indicate US children are falling far behind in terms of global achievement. This will have dire economic consequences in the future.
The problem is that both have natural constituencies within their parties that don’t want them to address education, for various reasons. And both seem prepared to go out of their way to please those constituencies.
We shouldn’t let them get away with it. Education reform is too important for the potential leaders of our nation to ignore.
Republicans and Democrats across the nation are beginning to understand that Big Labor is a huge problem for K-12 education, and they should demand that the candidates check in on this issue.