Friday, January 10, 2003

D.C. Vouchers

Deroy Murdock helps turn on the pressure for school vouchers in the nation's capital.

On the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, 6 percent of DCPS' eighth graders performed math at grade level, versus a U.S. average of 31 percent. On the 1998 NAEP writing test, 11 percent of DCPS' eighth graders were proficient or advanced, compared to 25 percent nationally. On that year's NAEP, only 10 percent of DCPS' fourth graders read at grade level, versus 35 percent nationally.

While 31 percent of U.S. students currently fail to finish high school, 42 percent of DCPS pupils drop out. Among DCPS graduates who reach the University of the District of Columbia , 85 percent need remedial education.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in 1997 that DCPS officials illegally kept two sets of books and “reprogrammed” money to pay unauthorized staffers. That year, $1.6 million mandated for needy students somehow became employees' salaries.

According to a December 18 FBI affidavit, labor bosses in the Washington Teacher's Union waltzed off with some $2 million in members' dues. As WTU honchos reportedly let rent and utilities bills pile up, they allegedly purchased a $6,800 crystal ice bucket, $17,000 in furs, a $57,000, 288-piece Tiffany sterling silver service set, and more.

DCPS itself is virtually gold-plated. It spent $10,477 on each of its 67,500 pupils in 2000-2001, versus a national average of $7,483 as the National Education Association estimates. Ahead of the 50 states, the NEA ranked DCPS as America 's number-one school public funding. Taxpayers finance 10,967 DCPS employees; only 4,719 of them teach.

D.C. kids need something besides money that ends up paying for school officials vacations, clothes, and dining. Let the public schools compete for the kids.

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