Dangers in D.C. Public Schools Strengthen Case to Save Vouchers

I like feeling safe. My parents like knowing I’m reasonably safe from all kinds of violence when I go to school, too. A lot of times where we live, we can take that kind of school safety for granted. But as a new report co-produced by the Heritage Foundation and the Lexington Institute (PDF) chronicles the dangers many students face in D.C. Public Schools and the need for greater choice:

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 11.3 percent of D.C. high school students reported being “threatened or injured” with a weapon while on school property during the previous year—a rate well above the national average….

The data reveal that during the 2007–2008 school year, 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. The data reveal a wide variance in the locations of these reported incidents. Some public schools with high rates of 911 calls are located within high-crime neighborhoods. In addition, 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.

When it comes to school choice, sometimes parents are looking for a better academic program or one more tailored to a child’s interests, personality, and learning style. And sometimes the need for choice is more dramatic: parents just want an educational setting where their child will not be attacked with a weapon.

School safety is not a new issue for my friends in the Education Policy Center. A few years ago they did a lot of research and wrote a report on the deficiencies of Colorado’s school safety reporting (PDF) to parents that led to some positive changes in the law.

But the moral is this: First, be thankful for what you have. More importantly, remember to sign up in support of the 216 students who had their vouchers to escape (in many cases, dangerous) schools revoked by Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education. As noted at National Review’s The Corner by Heritage’s Dan Lips, one of the new report’s co-authors, it isn’t too late for federal education officials to reconsider.