Democrats Deny Opportunity Scholarships for Low-Income Families in Favor of Teachers Unions

Sidwell Friends is one of the nation’s top schools. Students come from Washington’s most prominent families, and the school provides a positive environment that expects the best from its students. The campus could be mistaken for stately Wayne Manor.

As Bill McGurn noted in The Wall Street Journal, two of its students, Sarah and James Parker, enjoy going to Sidwell Friends. They’ve made friends there and are excelling in their studies. It’s a world away from the public school they would otherwise attend — where test scores are well below the national average and barely half of students graduate. The schools themselves are unsafe, with metal-detector checks a part of the average day.

There’s a problem, though. The Parkers can’t afford Sidwell Friends. They rely on what is known as Opportunity Scholarship, which provide $7,500 vouchers for 1,700 low-income students in the District of Columbia to help pay tuition costs for private schools, where a rigorous course load and effective teachers in every classroom is the standard, not the exception.

Congress, under the management of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is poised to take away the opportunity for these 1,700 students, approximately 90 percent of whom are African-American, through language that repeals the scholarships by simply doing nothing. Language inserted into the omnibus appropriations bill would mandate that the program expire after the next school year unless specifically reauthorized by Congress and approved by the District of Columbia.

We hear a lot from congressional Democrats that they put children first. We hear a lot from them about how only they can protect the interests of African-Americans. And in the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot from them about how they will stop Washington residents from being treated like second-class citizens.

We hear a lot of talk. But congressional Democrats remain unwilling stand up to the teachers unions opposed to any type of voucher so that these students are not yanked from their currents schools and forced back into the schools they fled.

One other person can help. He’s the president. His daughters attend Sidwell Friends with Sarah and James Parker and would lose two schoolmates if the provision becomes law. We often hear the about prominent politicians sending their children to private schools while denying low-income families the option of choosing the best schools for their children. Rarely, if ever, has it come so close to home before. One can only hope that it will spur President Obama to help his daughters’ schoolmates and the 1,698 other students who only want a quality education.