WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a groundswell of support for school choice in the nation's capital, the chairman of the D.C. City Council along with a host of local leaders and a bipartisan coalition of Senators today powerfully endorsed Congressional reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown praised the program for empowering families and improving the educational outcomes for participants.
"As a parent myself, I know that the most fundamental instinct of parents is to seek what is best for their children," Brown said at the hearing. "I cannot look a working mother in the eye and tell her that she deserves less choice, not more. Our low-income families deserve as much choice as possible."
Brown was joined at the hearing by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, as well as former D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous and Virginia Walden Ford, the executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice.
Walden Ford said that although public school system is improving, there are still far too many students who will be passed by if they have to wait years for reforms to come to their failing schools.
"Parents who live in every corner of our city are crying out for options," Walden Ford said. "They don't ask for much—just that their political leaders allow them access to the amazing private schools right in their own neighborhoods instead of forcing their children to attend neighborhood public schools that aren't safe and healthy environments."
The proposed reauthorization bills would provide scholarships for low-income children to attend qualifying private schools of their parents' choosing, and the plans also include strengthened accountability measures for participating schools. Though the Obama Administration and a majority of Congress prevented new children from joining the program in 2009, the bipartisan bills introduced in both the House and the Senate last month have reinvigorated support for the program from parents, national, and local leaders.
In his testimony, Mayor Gray said he believed that the local community must be involved in the decision-making process on education issues. This comes on the same day that the American Federation for Children released a poll showing that 74 percent of District residents want Congress to reauthorize the OSP, which yielded graduation rates for those who used their scholarships of 91 percent—21 percent higher than for children who didn't receive a scholarship. Gray has previously expressed support for the three-sector federal initiative and today said that "we must continue smart education reform."
Also providing testimony was Dr. Patrick J. Wolf, a University of Arkansas professor with extensive experience studying education reform issues. He cited evidence showing increases in graduation rates, reading scores, as well as significant economic savings as a result of improved student performance and high parent satisfaction.
"Parents were more satisfied with their child's school as a result of the OSP," Wolf said. "They also viewed their children as safer in school if they participated in the program."
SOURCE D.C. Parents for School Choice