Advocates Call on Senate to Swiftly Pass Bipartisan SOAR Act
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation for Children (AFC) today praised the US House of Representatives for passing the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, legislation that will restore and expand the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The legislation, which passed by a vote of 225 to 195, also ensures continued federal funding for the District's public schools and public charter schools.
Sponsored by US House Speaker John Boehner, the SOAR Act is strongly supported by multiple members of the D.C. City Council -- including Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown -- and three of the District's former mayors. According to an AFC poll released just last month, 74 percent of D.C. residents support the program's restoration and expansion. The legislation reauthorizes the OSP, which allows low-income children to receive scholarships to attend the private schools of their parents' choice.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, students who used their scholarships posted graduation rates of 91 percent -- more than 30 points higher than the graduation rates in D.C.'s public schools -- and experienced clear reading gains.
Companion bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Dianne Feinstein, and Lamar Alexander will soon be debated in the Senate.
"The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is one of the most effective federally-funded education programs ever studied," said AFC board member Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. City Councilman. "We call on the US Senate -- and in particular, Senate Democrats -- to stand with low-income children, to rebuff the heavy lobbying of anti-school choice special interests, and to vote 'yes' on the SOAR Act immediately. D.C. parents deserve the opportunity to see their children succeed in safe, effective schools, and this legislation makes that possible."
AFC Chairman Betsy DeVos praised the House vote.
"On behalf of thousands of low-income families in Washington, D.C., we thank Speaker John Boehner for his unwavering commitment to ensuring every child in the District has access to a quality education," DeVos said.
Today's vote comes as Democrats and Republicans are working together in more than a dozen states across the country to create, protect, and expand school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs for low-and middle-income children. Nearly 200,000 children currently benefit from 20 private school choice programs operating in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
SOURCE American Federation for Children