Liberals Wage War on 1,700 Poor D.C. Kids

The audacity of congressional Democrats is absolutely astonishing. Less than two months into the 111th Congress, they have made one of their top targets ending a popular scholarship program for 1,700 low-income D.C. students.

The $7,500 scholarships are the best thing that’s happened for District of Columbia students in the past decade — and one of the best investments Congress has made in education reform. Demand for the scholarships is so high that there are four applicants for each voucher, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of scholarship recipients, who have turned their attention to President Barack Obama in hopes he will rebuff the congressional Democrats’ vote to kill the $14 million program yesterday.

Leave it to liberals to pull the rug out from these struggling families. Without a scholarship, these students — 99% of whom are minorities — won’t be able to afford the private schools where President Barack Obama and members of Congress send their children. Scholarship recipients come from families with mere $23,000 annual income on average.

The threat posed to the Opportunity Scholarship Program is also an attack on the broader school choice movement — one that Obama spoke favorably of Tuesday when he promised to “open doors of opportunity for our children.” Failing to save the D.C. program will give liberals the impetus to attack successful school choice efforts elsewhere.

The scholarship program has the support of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who is trying to reform city’s notorious public school system, plagued by years of poor performance.

Not only is the program giving poor families hope for the future, it’s also a good value. As Andrew J. Coulson of Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom, explains in today’s New York Post:

The vouchers are worth an average of $6,000; last year, the District was spending $24,600 per student. If you could save 75 percent on a purchase, get the same or better quality of service, and know you’d be happier with the result, wouldn’t you do it? … It seems congressional Democrats would not.

For a party that claims to look out for the little guy, this is a clear sign that well-funded teachers’ unions (a major source of Democrat campaign cash) are really running the show. Putting this provision in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill without a single congressional hearing and no debate is an outrage.

The 1,800 students who participate in the program deserve the same educational opportunities as Sasha and Malia. How their father reacts will indicate if he’s going to kowtow to union politics or fulfill his promise to “open doors of opportunity for our children.”