History was made yesterday when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, while speaking about public education in her annual State of the District address from Arena Stage, proudly talked about her support for the city’s private school voucher plan. This event is so monumental, let’s take a moment to reflect on her exact words:
“I have also called on Congress to renew the SOAR Act, which provides $225 million in education funding over the next 5 years.”
The number to which Ms. Bowser is referring is the $15 million a year in federal dollars for traditional schools, charters, and scholarships for low income students to attend institutions such as Sidwell Friends, St. Peters, and Gonzaga College High School.
Never has the chief executive of Washington D.C. so publicly called for continuation of the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Thank you Mayor Bowser.
But don’t get me wrong. All was not perfect on the public policy front on Tuesday. Here is what Ms. Bowser had to say about charters:
“In order to do all the other things we want to do as a city, we have to get education right. So with this budget we will make the largest investment in public education in our history – with a $75 million dollar increase over last year!
This means more funding for instruction, and focused programming in both our traditional public schools and our public charter schools.”
Not one mention about providing desperately needed facilities for charters. Silence about the FOCUS engineered law suit which is desperately trying to bring equality to the $100 million a year in revenue that DCPS gets to which charters are denied access. No comment about the 22,000 students on charter school waiting lists anxious to get into the DC Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework Tier 1 classrooms.
Moreover, her statement about focused programming is in itself worrisome. Does this mean the Mayor wants to try to micromanage what is taught in the sector now teaching 39,000 students?
We will come back to all of these subjects on another day. This morning, let’s piggyback on the Mayor’s remarks and request Congress to re-authorize the SOAR Act as soon as is humanly possible.