Dr. Patrick Wolf spoke to a packed audience in the Capitol Visitors Center last Monday.Why?
The seats were full and people stood all along the edges of the room, even spilling out into the hallway. We all came to hear him explain his latest research on the tiny education program that has caused a national uproar—arousing so much passion that African-American leaders from around the country recently gathered downtown to engage in an act of civil disobedience.
The Department of Education commissioned Wolf to conduct a series of detailed studies on the results of the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). Established in 2004 as a five-year pilot program, OSP is among the most heavily researched federal education programs in history.
OSP targeted about 2,000 of the poorest kids in DC who were stuck in some of the worst schools in the country. It gave their parents a $7,500 scholarship to attend a private school of their choice.
The response was immediate. Four applications were filled out for every slot available. Parents loved the program, considering it a lifeline for their children, a way to escape failing schools and enter safe, functional schools.
Everyone knew OSP would be a bargain. DC has among the highest spending per pupil in the nation. At a conservative estimate of $17,542, the public schools spend over $10,000 more per child than the $7,500 spent through the scholarship program.
But would OSP achieve measureable results?
The answer is a resounding yes. Previous studies by Wolf showed an improvement in academic performance, to the point that a student participating in OSP from kindergarten through high school would likely be 2 ½ years ahead in reading. The key finding in this final round of research, Wolf told us, was the graduation rates. OSP dramatically increases prospects of high-school graduation.
Wolf pointed to research showing that high-school diplomas significantly improve the chance of getting a job. And dropouts that do find employment earn about $8,500 less per year than their counterpoints with diplomas. Further, each graduate reduces the cost of crime by a stunning $112,000. Cecelia Rouse, an economic advisor to President Obama, found that each additional high school graduate saves the country $260,000.
Simply put, OSP has a profoundly positive effect not just on students, but on the city and the country as a whole.
So when it came time for Congress to reauthorize OSP, it would seem to be a no-brainer: Expand the program.
Instead, they killed it.
It’s clear, though, from how the destruction of the [OSP] program is being orchestrated, that issues such as parents’ needs, student performance and program effectiveness don’t matter next to the political demands of teachers’ unions.So, the next time that teachers unions tell you that more money is required in order for them to educate your children, remember this. In Washington State the WEA is no better.
The Post board also wrote that “the debate unfolding on Capitol Hill isn’t about facts. It’s about politics and the stranglehold the teachers unions have on the Democratic Party.”
As it turns out, the teachers unions are the single largest contributor to federally elected politicians, with the vast majority of their funds going to Democrats. The teachers unions don’t like programs like OSP because when parents have the freedom to choose, they may choose schools that don’t have unionized teachers.
DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton was one of the principal opponents of OSP and was instrumental in ending the program. Guess who her largest donor is? Answer here.
For details, read the entire piece.