Opinion: Why are unions and democrats so opposed to giving poor children the choice of schooling?

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Graduates of university graduation, the background image is blue sky.

Editor’s note: This Washington Post editorial board opinion piece appeared in the online edition of this publication on Thursday.

For 17 years, a federally funded K-12 scholarship program has given thousands of poor DC children the opportunity to attend private schools and the opportunity to pursue higher education. And for many of those 17 years, the program has been in the crosshairs of unions and other opponents of private vouchers. Their tireless efforts can unfortunately finally succeed, with House Democrats and the Biden administration quietly laying the groundwork to kill this worthy agenda.

In its report approving the DC spending bill for fiscal year 2022, the House Appropriations Committee said it expects the administration to phase out the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program – allowing current students to continue but not allowing new students to register. The measure is likely to pass the House, creating a potential fight in the Senate where bipartisan support for the program has helped push back past efforts to abolish it, including by the Obama administration.

The cost of the program is modest and well spent: $ 17.5 million per year. This is part of a federal funding agreement that also directs money to traditional and charter public schools in the district. Almost 11,000 scholarships have been awarded since the inception of the program in 2004, and at least 91% of graduates are accepted to two or four year colleges or universities.

This compares to 39 percent of DC’s public high school students. Most of the beneficiaries – 92% – are African American or Hispanic, and the average annual income of families participating in the program during the 2020-2021 school year was $ 23,668.

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