The first day of school brings excitement and anxieties to many students and parents across the country. But put yourself in the shoes of a parent who had been hoping to send their child to a safe and effective school-only to have the means for doing so suddenly removed and being forced to re-enroll that child in a public school system where nearly one in eight children reports being assaulted with a weapon. That's the situation that parents of 216 Washington, D.C. children faced when they received a letter from the Obama administration earlier this year telling them that their children's Opportunity Scholarships were being revoked. For many of these parents, the scholarships were their only hope of getting their child into a safe learning environment. Now, like thousands of other D.C. residents, many of these parents are facing the anxiety of sending their children off to crime-ridden D.C. public schools each day.
On Friday, the Heritage Foundation and the Lexington Institute released a new Center for Data Analysis Report on school safety in the District of Columbia. According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, police responded to more than 900 calls to 911 reporting violent incidents at the addresses of D.C. public schools and more than 1,300 events concerning property crimes.
While one should use these data with care when comparing the relative safety of public, charter, and private schools, this data set shows that a drastically higher rate of calls were made from D.C. public schools. The report also found that many of the 216 students who were recently denied Opportunity Scholarships are now assigned to attend public schools with high rates of crime and violence.
The new Heritage Foundation-Lexington Institute report is getting noticed in the media:
- In an editorial on Friday, the Washington Post urged President Obama to add this new report to his summer reading list, and asked the administration and Congress to reconsider its decision to phase-out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.
- Washington Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras highlighted the findings in her column on Monday. She questioned why the District school system's official reports show much fewer incidents of violence and crime.
- Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst Dan Lips wrote about the new report in a post on NRO's The Corner: "Why D.C. Families Want School Choice."
You can read the full report here: School Safety in Washington, D.C.: New Data for the 2007-2008 School Year.