School Choice Leaders to Congress: Renew D.C. Voucher Program

Jun 22, 2010, 17:51 ET from American Federation for Children

Students in D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Post Strong Graduation Rates

WASHINGTON, June 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congress should take immediate action and reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in light of a new report demonstrating that the school voucher program boosts student graduation rates by 21 percentage points, according to the American Federation for Children (, a leading school choice advocacy organization.

A rigorous federal evaluation, released this morning, demonstrates that the program has made an important impact on student learning in reading, has boosted parental satisfaction, and has spurred efforts towards improvement at 28 percent of D.C.'s public schools. Most importantly, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program "significantly improve[s] students' chances of graduating from high school," the report concludes. In particular, students from chronically underperforming public schools experienced graduation rates that were 20 percentage points higher and female students saw graduation rates increase by 28 percentage points.

The program, which has served more than 3,300 children since its inception in 2003 and which has gained bipartisan support, allows low-income parents to use school vouchers to send their children to eligible private schools. Funding for the program comes from the federal government as part of a special three-sector education funding formula that includes money for D.C. Public Schools and D.C.'s public charter schools. Unfortunately, the Obama administration and some Members of Congress have tried to eliminate the program.

"As we review today's evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, it is clear that the time has come for President Obama and his Congressional allies to reauthorize the program and empower thousands of additional, low-income D.C. schoolchildren with the opportunity to graduate from high school and achieve their dreams," said Kevin P. Chavous, former D.C. City Councilman and member of the American Federation for Children's board of directors.

The Opportunity Scholarship program is highly popular among parents. In addition to the fact that 8,000 families applied for participation in the program and 75 percent of D.C. residents support the program's continuation, parents who participate in the program are much more likely to grade their children's schools with an "A" or a "B" than parents of children in traditional public schools.

"During a time when many inner-city U.S. high schools are criticized by the national media as being 'dropout factories,' any initiative that serves as a catalyst for increased learning and high school graduation should be saved and strengthened, not eliminated," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. "A quality education should be available to all children in D.C. -- not just to the children of the politically connected."

SOURCE American Federation for Children