Strong commitment to D.C. school voucher plan would be a welcome sign

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: May 15, 2012

EDUCATION hasn't been a major theme so far in the race for the presidency. But Republican contender Mitt Romney cracked open the schoolhouse doors a bit recently with the contention that President Barack Obama has been weak when it comes to the Washington, D.C., voucher plan. Romney's absolutely right.

For an administration that has focused considerable time and resources on improving schools, Obama has proved disappointing when it comes to standing up for students who attend some of the nation's worst schools.

Parents with a choice — Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan among them — don't typically choose to send their children to D.C.'s public schools. That fate is left to those for whom choice is merely an illusion.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was created in 2004. In the years since, the scholarships have helped thousands of children from poor families escape troubled public schools and helped them pay for private schooling. The result is students who are performing better and more likely to graduate from high school.

Despite the program's results, it's been touch-and-go since Obama took office. After initial attempts to phase it out, Obama seemed to soften his stance toward the program last year with an apparent multiyear funding agreement. But as Romney is now pointing out, Obama's budget for next fiscal year doesn't include funding. Even if Obama or Congress eventually comes through, the lukewarm, on-again, off-again support for the program is a head scratcher.

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