NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 29, 2008

The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation's greatest scandal.  Presidential candidate John McCain is calling for alternatives to the system, says the Wall Street Journal.

In remarks recently to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), McCain touted the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally financed school-choice program for disadvantaged kids signed into law by President Bush in 2004:

  • Qualifying families in the District of Columbia receive up to $7,500 a year to attend private K-12 schools; to qualify, a child must live in a family with a household income below 185 percent of the poverty level.
  • Some 1,900 children participate; 99 percent are black or Hispanic; average annual income is just over $22,000 for a family of four.
  • A recent Department of Education report found nearly 90 percent of participants in the D.C. program have higher reading scores than peers who didn't receive a scholarship; there are five applicants for every opening.

McCain could have mentioned EdisonLearning, a private company that took over 20 of Philadelphia's 45 lowest performing district schools in 2002 to create a new management model for public schools, says the Journal:

  • The most recent state test-score data show that student performance at Philadelphia public schools managed by Edison and other outside providers has improved by nearly twice the amount as the schools run by the district.
  • The number of students performing at grade level or higher in reading at the schools managed by private providers increased by 6.1 percent overall compared to 3.3 percent in district-managed schools.
  • In math, the results for Edison and other outside managers was 4.6 percent and 6 percent, respectively, compared to 3.1 percent in the district-run schools.

Source: Editorial, "The Greatest Scandal," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2008.

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