Decision Day in Congress: Federal Funding for D.C. Public Schools, Charter Schools, Opportunity Scholarships at Stake

Success of Speaker Boehner's SOAR Act Will Signal Continuation of Education Reform in District of Columbia

Mar 29, 2011, 17:09 ET from D.C. Parents for School Choice

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A vote tomorrow by the U.S. House of Representatives could bring the educational dreams of low-income D.C. families one step closer to reality. Passage of Speaker John Boehner's SOAR Act would also signal the continuation of federal funding for D.C.'s public schools and public charter schools.

The SOAR Act, scheduled for a floor vote in the House tomorrow, would restore and extend the highly-effective D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) for five additional years. The OSP has resulted in overwhelmingly high parental satisfaction rates and graduation rates of 91 percent for children who used their scholarships. More than 3,300 children have participated in the OSP since the program's inception in 2003.

Strongly supported by more than 74 percent of District residents, several members of the City Council, and three of the District's former mayors, the SOAR Act would also provide $200 million in federal funds over five years for D.C.'s public schools and public charter schools to continue an era of education reform that has been marked by public school improvements and a flourishing charter school sector.

"As a result of these dramatic and effective reforms, people from across the country are looking towards the District of Columbia's three-sector approach to education reform as a national model," said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. "At such a crucial juncture on our city's history we cannot allow this model to break or falter, regardless of our ideological predispositions."

A companion version of the legislation is sponsored in the US Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Dianne Feinstein, Lamar Alexander, and John Ensign.

"Anyone who would oppose this bill is jeopardizing the future of our public schools and our public charter schools -- along with the educational futures of children receiving scholarships and families who want scholarships," said Kevin P. Chavous, former D.C. Councilman and chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. "Under no scenario is Congress prepared to give the District a blank check or to continue its investment in education reform if this bill does not succeed. The failure of the SOAR Act would likely lead to increased taxes for District residents, an overburdened public school system, and the shuttering of several high-performing charter schools."

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SOURCE D.C. Parents for School Choice