Weekly Republican Address: Make Education The Civil Right of the 21st Century

WASHINGTON, DC – In the week’s Republican address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) calls on President Obama and the United States Senate to support the groundbreaking Washington, DC school choice program that has helped thousands of students from low-income families get a quality education.  Boehner helped establish the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program during his tenure as chairman of the House Education the Workforce Committee, and his commitment to school choice dates back to his earliest days in Congress.   “In my view,” he says, “education ought to be the civil right of the 21st century.”

The audio of the weekly address is available here, embargoed until 6:00 am ET tomorrow, when the video will be available on Speaker.gov.

Remarks of House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio
Weekly Republican Address
Board of Education Room, The Capitol
October 24, 2015

Good morning, everyone.

As parents – as Americans – we want nothing more than to see our kids go to the best schools.  In my view, education ought to be the civil right of the 21st century.

This week, the people’s House took another step towards fulfilling that vital goal. 

You see, in 2003, a small group of Republicans and Democrats came together to create something called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. 

It is the only program in America where the federal government allows low-income families to choose the schools that are best for their kids.

The program has truly made a difference.  All told, some 6,100 students have gone to better schools using these scholarships.  Last spring, 90 percent of 12th graders in the program graduated.  That’s much higher than the city’s average graduation rate. 

And of the 1,400 students this year, some 87 percent would otherwise be at a school that the government has identified as in need of improvement.  These are the kind of results parents dream of for their kids. 

Still, there’s a reason this is the only program of its kind.  Our approach gives equal support to public schools, charter schools, and these low-income families.   But the unions and the education establishment in our country see school choice as a threat. 

More than once, the Obama administration has tried to eliminate the program altogether. 

But here’s what the forces of the status quo don’t seem to understand.  If you have the resources, you already have school choice.  You can send your child to whatever school you want.  But if you’re poor, and stuck in a bad neighborhood, your child won’t have that chance.  To me, that’s just fundamentally unfair.  Your zip code shouldn’t decide your fate.  Education can and should be the great equalizer – lifting up kids who would otherwise slip through the cracks.

So this week, the House voted to renew the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for another five years.  I hope the Senate will soon follow suit, and we can get this to the president’s desk. 

This bill won’t solve all the problems in our schools, and it isn’t designed to.  Education reform is another big job ahead of us.  But this is a chance to keep doing something that’s making a difference for our kids.  And if we can make this work here, we can make it work anywhere.

And if there’s one thing I’ve always known, it’s this: if you do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen.

So I hope we’ll come together to do the right thing for our kids, and yours. 

Thank you, and God bless the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, the United States of America.