Yesterday, a congressionally-mandated evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program concluded that the program has been a success for children and parents alike.   The report found that students who were offered a scholarship – whether they use that scholarship during some or all of their elementary and secondary years – are significantly more likely to graduate from high school.  The report also noted that parents of scholarship recipients are more satisfied with their educational choices and D.C. schools are working with families to become more engaged in their children’s studies.

Unfortunately, Democrats quietly killed the highly popular program for the neediest kids in our nation’s capital at the behest of the teachers unions.   The Washington Post praised the program and lamented its early termination in an editorial today:

More than 3,700 students -- most of them black or Hispanic -- have been awarded scholarships, which provide up to $7,500 for private-school tuition, since the program's start in 2004.  Students currently enrolled, an estimated 1,300, will be allowed to continue until they graduate from high school.  But for reasons that have more to do with opposition from teachers unions than what's good for children, no new students are being accepted.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year signaled the program's demise by rescinding scholarships already offered, and congressional Democrats refused to reauthorize the program.  These findings should prompt them to reconsider.  Said former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, ‘The results of the study demonstrate what we've known for years: [The program] is making a difference for students who need our help the most.’

Some of the findings in the report, according to Business Wire, include the following:
  • “Students from chronically underperforming public schools experienced graduation rates that were 20 percentage points higher and female students saw graduation rates increase by 28 percentage points.”
  • “Many students are reading at higher levels as a result of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.”
  • “The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has proven a significant catalyst for education reform in Washington, D.C.  A stunning 28 percent of D.C. public schools made definitive efforts to improve as a direct result of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program…Specifically, schools increased efforts to involve parents, improved safety, offered new courses, and lowered class sizes, among other reforms.”
  • “Parents who sent their children to schools using scholarships are much happier than parents who don’t, the study reveals….The study found that ‘students offered a scholarship attended schools with more frequent parent-school communication’ and that 76 percent of participating parents graded their children's schools an ‘A’ or a ‘B.’”
As Adam Schaeffer noted on the Cato Institute’s blog, the District of Columbia public school system “spends around $28,000 per student. The last report pegged the average voucher at just $6,620. The maximum voucher cost is just $7,500.  Huge sums of money saved, student performance increased, parents happier…why is this program being killed?”

It’s a good question, and one Democrats haven’t been able to answer.