· July 12, 2013, 6:44 p.m. ET
The D.C. Voucher Example
Mr. President, how about that 97% graduation rate?
President Obama talks passionately about reducing school dropout rates, and he need only look in his own backyard for how to do it. Of course he'll also have to quit trying to kill the successful program.
Washington D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarship Program has released its latest data on student progress in that landmark voucher program. A remarkable 97% of its students graduated from high school in the 2011-2012 school year—a 4% increase from the two previous years. This compares to a D.C. public schools graduation rate of 55%. More than 90% of parents say they are happy with their voucher child's academic progress, and applications exceed slots for the coming school year by nearly 3 to 1.
Despite this success, Democrats killed D.C. vouchers in 2009 at the behest of teachers unions. It was left to Speaker John Boehner and former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to rescue the education lifeline. The President's 2014 budget proposal again zeroes out funding, but it will survive thanks to House Republicans.
Mr. Obama's policy alternative for dropout rates is to demand that states raise the minimum age at which kids can leave school. This 2012 proposal fell flat once states realized they'd pay more to keep kids longer in the same rotten schools, with no uptick in diploma rates. The union answer is, as ever, to spend even more on failure.
Each D.C. voucher is worth about half the $18,000 that D.C. public schools spend per student. The voucher success rests not in money or mandates, but in giving parents the choice to take their child out of a failing school and into one with high standards and committed teachers. That's what President Obama does with his own daughters, who attend private schools. Millions of poor kids deserve the same choice.