Last week John B. King, Jr., the individual nominated by President Obama to replace Arne Duncan as U.S. Education Secretary, testified in front of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee as part of the process around his confirmation. Committee member and School choice powerhouse Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) asked Mr. King to allow the $35 million in Opportunity Scholarship Program carry-over funds to be used to provide additional private school scholarships to children living in poverty in the nation’s capital. About 1,200 kids are currently taking advantage of the OSP to enroll in school. The carry-over funds would help 4,000 more kids. The answer from the man whose department’s mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” was no.
Here’s some background information. As I’m sure you remember, last December Congress, as part of their omnibus spending bill, was supposed to re-authorize the OSP for an additional five years. It was one of the last acts Speaker Boehner took in the House before leaving office. With him gone, the program was only funded for an additional year. But perhaps most importantly, language that would have improved administration of the plan did not pass. One significant item included in this legislation was the ability of the OSP to use carry-over funds. Because the Obama Administration has been trying for eight years to kill this program there is an estimated $35 million in money that has not been awarded for scholarships sitting around just waiting to be handed out.
This political fight is getting old. As our traditional and charters schools struggle to bring students to academic proficiency there is an educational life-preserver available for those in our community who are most vulnerable for failure. Can some public official out of kindness and compassion please give them a break?