A week after 200 low-income Washington, D.C. families were offered $7,500 vouchers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan canceled the scholarships. No new children will start at private schools in the fall; those already attending will lose voucher aid in another year, unless Congress reconsiders. As the Washington Post editorializes, this makes it easier for congressional opponents to end the voucher program for good, despite a new study showing reading gains for voucher students.
(The decision) comes despite a new study showing some initial good results for students in the program and before the Senate has had a chance to hold promised hearings. For all the talk about putting children first, it’s clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.
. . . By presuming the program dead — and make no mistake, that’s the insidious effect of his bar on new enrollment — Mr. Duncan makes it even more difficult for the program to get the fair hearing it deserves.
The voucher families have missed the deadline to apply to many public charter schools or to apply for transfers. Their kids will be stuck in their neighborhood district-run public schools.
Duncan has a boss, points out Jennifer Rubin on Contentions. His name is Barack Obama. He doesn’t send his kids to D.C.’s district-run public schools.
Duncan wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t know about the follow-up study’s positive findings, writes Grover Whitehurst, former director of the Institute for Education Sciences.
Update: At Flypaper, Mike Petrilli prints the letter the Education Department sent to parents who were offered vouchers, then told the scholarships were cancelled. It expresses “regret” for the “confusion” and promises to do “everything possible to help ensure that your child is in a safe school environment that offers strengthened academic programs.” Since transfer and charter deadlines have passed, “everything possible” isn’t much.
Petrilli suggests more honest wording:
“Because Democrats in Congress have voted to rescind funding for this program after next school year (despite the fact that a recent evaluation shows it to be a success, a rarity for federal initiatives), we have unilaterally decided to rescind your child’s scholarship effective immediately.”
It’s not too late for President Obama to step in. Send the Seals!