In testimony to the House Government Reform Committee, Grover Norquist praises Rep. Jeff Flake for his courageous efforts to give children in Washington, DC a ticket out of the city\’s failing school system.
WASHINGTON – For decades, as America has prospered unlike any country in history, a surprising gap has arisen between two distinct groups of Americans. The vast majority of Americans attend the best colleges in the world, become doctors and scientists and bankers, and build wealth over a lifetime. But a significant minority is condemned to second-class status, with little hope for prestige, security, or wealth, because they cannot escape a decrepit, failing, inner-city school system.
Washington, DC\’s public schools have proven to be some of the worst managed and worst performing schools in the nation. For those Washington families that cannot afford expensive private schools, their children end up trapped in a social and intellectual wasteland that few can overcome. But Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has offered a ray of hope to Washington\’s children – following on the successes of school choice programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland, Rep. Flake has introduced legislation to provide scholarships to low-income children to attend high-performing public or private schools in Washington or the adjacent counties in Maryland and Virginia.
"Rep. Flake is attempting reform of mammoth proportions," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "First, he is offering a \’get out of jail free\’ card to needy students, immediately improving peoples\’ lives. But he also changes behavior and incentives – the failing DC public schools will suddenly have to compete with high-performing schools. And such a high profile experiment conducted in the nation\’s capital will focus the nation\’s attention."
The school choice movement has been building nationwide for the last 20 years, but it has faced stiff opposition from those with a vested interest in the current failing system. Currently, the crown jewels of the choice movement are Milwaukee and Cleveland, where thousands of disadvantaged students have been given scholarships to attend private or suburban public schools. Although attempts to bring choice to DC have failed for the past six years, proponents are now optimistic because Washington\’s Democratic mayor, Anthony Williams, has swung his support behind the plan.
"School choice is good for taxpayers because it stops rewarding failing government schools, and because it educates productive citizens for the future," Norquist continued. "But more than just the financial reasons, school choice is the new civil rights issue. Poor Washington kids should not be condemned to a lifetime of failure simply because DC schools refuse to improve. The children deserve the hope that choice gives them."