D.C. school choice activists and families fighting for the restoration of the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) met together at the Heritage Foundation on April 13 to screen their short documentary, Let Me Rise, which states that it documents “the story of hundreds of families in our nation’s capital fighting for their children’s future…”
“…and of millions of others who hope to one day follow in their footsteps,” it continues.
A significant portion of the film footage is devoted to showing the faces of parents and families currently involved in the program. “The people that don’t support this program need to come face to face, look us in our eyes and tell us why,” argues OSP recipient “Ronald” in the film.
“A series of studies conducted by Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas, concluded that OSP parents are “very satisfied,” “more involved,” and found improved communications with their children who have had “an improved attitude toward learning,” and “increased self-esteem,” reported Anthony Kang in August 2009.
Referring to the successes of the program, Rashawn’s parent, Joe Kelley, says in the film that “Now, I can see my son, the son that I said, you know, that I knew that was so smart and remembers so much, I know that he [sic] gonna graduate from high school.”
I could see my daughter, you know, five, ten years from now graduating,” says participating parent Carmen Holassie in the film. “I could see my daughter not being on the poverty level that I’ve been through. I could see that—this opportunity scholarship is working and will work.”
“The D.C. public schools don’t just fail to educate, they also fail to protect,” argues Juan Williams, Fox News contributor and NPR news analyst, in the film. “One in eight students report that they had been threatened with a deadly weapon on school grounds. That’s the highest rate in the nation.”
A Heritage study of “crime-related incidents reported to the [D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] MPD during the 2007–2008 school year, excluding the summer months” conducted by David V. Mulhausen, Don Soifer and Dan Lips identified significant safety problems at some D.C. schools. “During the 2007– 2008 school year, 3,500 incidences of crime were reported to the Metropolitan Police Department from D.C. public schools: 912 incidences of violent crime, 1,338 incidences of property crimes, and 1,250 other incidences,” they wrote. The study found that reported crime rates were significantly higher at public schools when compared to either charter or private schools.
The documentary blames powerful special interests such as teachers unions for opposing the D.C. school vouchers and, in the voice of Williams, placing the program under an organized, full-scale “attack.”
“It doesn’t seem to bother them that they continue to fail the nation’s most vulnerable people, low income blacks and hispanics,” argues Williams about the National Education Association, a national teachers union with 3.2 million members.
The film quotes Senator Joseph Liebermann’s (I-Conn.) comments at a May 13, 2009 senate hearing, during which he said that “we invited no less than six witnesses who are opposed to the reauthorization of this program [the OSP], to come and testify and not a single one accepted our invitations.”
“Earlier this year the Department of Education released a report that found that kids who had been in the scholarship program had made statistically significant gains in reading achievement compared to a control group of students who remained in public school,” said Lips in the film.
As previously reported, the Department of Education study also showed that 82% of voucher receiving students who chose a private school chose a faith-based one. 59 percent of private school enrollees attended an Archdiocesan Catholic private school, even though Catholic facilities constituted only 39 percent of the private schools available to program participants.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.