Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) do not think highly of the District of Columbia’s public schools. (Don’t they know Michelle Rhee fixed them and now everything is perfect?) That much quickly became clear during a Wednesday hearing on rebooting a program that provides vouchers so D.C. school children can afford to attend private schools.
In her opening statement, Collins said that if the program ended, “93 percent of the children [enrolled] would be returned to schools that do not measure up.”
And when the senators -- they appeared to be the only two members of the 17-person Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in attendance for the hearing -- were questioning Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown about the program, Lieberman said that D.C. eighth graders were the worst in the nation at reading and math.
Eventually, Collins threatened to withhold funding from D.C. Public Schools if the voucher program -- formally named the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program -- wasn’t continued. After all, if D.C.’s public classrooms are as wretched as our congressional overlords claim, it would be the only appropriate thing to do. Are they that bad?
Lieberman’s claim comes from a relatively simple source: the Nation’s Report Card. The National Assessment of Educational Progress ranked D.C. last among the fifty states for eighth graders in both reading and math.
As Gray pointed out in response to the Connecticut senator’s remark, D.C. is as much a city as a state. But the schools don’t cover themselves in glory when judged vis-a-vis other large cities either. In reading, the District ties Fresno and beats only Detroit. In math, DCPS ties with Milwaukee’s public schools and beats only Detroit.
As for Collins’ remark, her spokesperson pointed us to a document tracking 2010-2011 enrollment from the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, which administers the program. Without the program, according to the document, 93.3 percent of the program’s 1012 students would be returned to public schools judged to be “In Need of Improvement”, “Restructuring”, or “Corrective Action” under the No Child Left Behind act. To us, that qualifies as "not measuring up.”
The Collins-Lieberman tag team might be meddling in the District's affairs, but at least they're accurate while doing it. (Other congressman haven't been.) The two senators receive Honest Abes.