AFC Praises Passage of D.C. Scholarship Bill from Key Committee

Strong Congressional support moves reauthorization of Opportunity Scholarship Program to vote in full House

Mar 10, 2011, 16:46 ET from American Federation for Children

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The American Federation for Children (AFC) today applauded the advancement of the bill to reauthorize the highly-successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program by a U.S. House of Representatives Committee.

By a 21-14 margin, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act on to a vote by the full House. The Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) allows children from low-income D.C. families to attend a participating private school of their parents' choice. The bill would reauthorize the program for five additional years, allow new students to enter the program, modestly increase scholarship amounts, and reinstate a robust and accountable federal evaluation of the program.  

The OSP was effectively terminated by the Obama Administration and Congress two years ago, despite overwhelming parental satisfaction, high demand, and strong city support.  The most recent federal evaluation of the OSP showed that students who used their scholarships had a 91 percent graduation rate – 21 percent higher than those who were offered but did not use scholarships and more than 30 points higher than D.C. Public School students. The program has also produced gains in reading.

"This is an important step towards making sure that absolutely no child is denied their right to a quality education in our nation's capital because of their zip code," said Kevin P. Chavous, an AFC board member and chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. "Now it's up to Congress to do the right thing and allow these low-income D.C. families to gain access to a quality education, right now.

The SOAR Act, which was introduced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), received strong support from many members of the Oversight Committee, including Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), both of whom are cosponsors of the bill. Bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The OSP is a program that was developed and championed by city leaders in 2003 and continues to enjoy strong local support. Seventy-four percent of D.C. residents support congressional reauthorization; nearly 9,000 families have applied to participate since 2003; nearly 8,000 signed a petition calling for reauthorization; and OSP parents are overwhelmingly satisfied.  

More than 3,300 children have received opportunity scholarships since the program's inception in Fiscal Year 2004, and thousands more have benefitted from the city's three-sector approach to education reform. In addition to funding for the OSP, the SOAR Act would provide $40 million per year to D.C. Public Schools and the District's public charter schools.

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SOURCE American Federation for Children