I consider myself fortunate to have been able to attend one of the best private high schools in Washington DC, something I was able to do because my parents had enough money to afford it. That education put me on a path of opportunity, which led to great internships, a superior college and better jobs and earning potential.
For the last five years that road of opportunity has been open to a select group of DC public school students through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system which provided $7500 a year to 1700 kids, giving them a chance escape from the failing DC public schools and attend a charter school or a private school in the area. The DC public schools are rated third worst in the nation, but with a voucher, the door to a superior education was open to them.
Now that door is going to be closed; kids who were given a chance to succeed, which poverty and disadvantage had denied them, are going to be thrust back into a world of gangs, drugs and violence, where learning is almost impossible. In the new budget, Congress has withdrawn its support for the voucher program and it is likely the DC board of education will shut the program down as a result.
In just five years, the success of the Opportunity Scholarship Program has been remarkable and students have shown substantial improvement on standardized tests and in college placement. These vouchers let students leave behind a system where only 59% of students even graduate and only a fifth of those end up going to college. DC area private schools graduate close to 100% of their students and almost all of those graduates go on to college. In fact a quarter of them go to one of the top 10 colleges in the nation. DC charter schools also perform well, graduating 91% of their students and sending 83% of those graduates to college, almost 4 times the college placement rate of the DC public schools.