President Barack Obama has talked favorably about school choice, both in his campaign, and while in office. But his actions have not lived up to the expectations of Americans, and importantly, the residents of Washington, DC.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, William McGurn notes: “That deafening roar you hear — that’s the sound of Barack Obama’s silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn’t break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington’s children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.”
It’s come to the point where the president’s supporters are criticizing him for his lack of action on school choice. Over the weekend Kevin P. Chavous of Black Alliance for Educational Options placed a full-page ad in the New York Times. There is a news release (Leader of Black Alliance Blasts President Obama on Parental Choice) regarding the ad, and Chavous’ letter appears below.
Dear Mr. President:
One of the reasons I supported you, as did virtually all of the Black community in this country, is because we believed that you would stand up to vested interests and do the right thing even if it was not politically expedient. You have now left us confused and dismayed.
We simply cannot reconcile what you are saying about education reform with what you are actually doing to give parents the opportunity to choose the best schools for their children.
Last year, you refused to support the reauthorization of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program. As you know, this program allows low-income parents to receive government-funded scholarships so their children can attend private schools of their choice. This initiative has been an educational lifeline to thousands of children.
You acted to eliminate hope for thousands of low-income children who live just blocks from the White House, despite compelling data that confirms these children are receiving a better education than they would receive in the D.C. public schools.
While opposing this program would appear to be a contradiction to what you said on the Today show earlier this week, some might call it the height of hypocrisy. As a beneficiary of a privately funded scholarship, you attended the most elite private school in Hawaii. You and Mrs. Obama have also chosen a private school for your own children. Because there is not enough money to provide private scholarships to all low-income families, you more than anyone should be an advocate for government-funded opportunity scholarships nationwide.
Far too many of our children are confined in schools that continue to fail, year after year. As Dr. Martin Luther King said during the civil rights movement, we need to act with the fierce urgency of now. Our children cannot wait. Opportunity scholarships help educate kids today.
So, Mr. President, there is still time for you to throw off the shackles of the educational establishment and join our ranks. There are over one million empty urban private school seats in this country that are waiting to be filled if low-income families had government-funded scholarships. If you would like to learn more about our work at the Black Alliance for Educational Options or would like to meet some of the families who would like to participate in these programs, I would be happy to introduce them to you
Please, Mr. President, let’s educate our children by any means necessary.
Kevin P. Chavous
Black Alliance for Educational Options