The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program—the program that has helped 3,300 low-income, primarily African American and Latino students gain access to better schools works simply but wonderfully: it gives low-income parents the opportunity to send their children to some of the District’s finest private schools using federal scholarships.
As a result of this program and their own drive to succeed, wonderful children like Tiffany Dunston have been able to overcome once-insurmountable personal obstacles and do great things. Tiffany went from fighting to learn in a failing public school to—with the help of an Opportunity Scholarship—becoming the valedictorian at Archbishop Carroll High School. Now, she’s thriving at a great university. Killing the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program decreases the possibility that another child like Tiffany will truly rise to her own true potential.
President Obama’s continued silence on the issue is a betrayal, pure and simple.
It is not simply a betrayal of the D.C. voters who invested in President Obama’s campaign message with their votes—the same voters who overwhelmingly want the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program to continue for additional students. It is a betrayal of the president’s own personal narrative—one that he invokes frequently—of understanding the needs and hopes and dreams of low-income families. It is a betrayal of the person Barack Obama claims to have been—and was—before he became a politician. Surely, no community organizer with low-income roots could so callously dispose of the dreams of low-income children without first having betrayed or forgotten his own roots.
Yes, President Obama has let us down and fundamentally so. Luckily for him, he has the time and the opportunity to change that. He can meaningfully save the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and allow additional students to enter the program. That would provide real hope—the kind people have long wanted from leaders in Washington.