Some members of Congress are trying to bring a little Christmas cheer back to District families fighting for the continuation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Representative Burgess, along with co-sponsors Boehner, Kline, Frelinghuysen and Issa, introduced legislation to amend the Omnibus to remove language phasing-out the Opportunity Scholarship program. The Omnibus spending bill, which was approved by the House and Senate last week, included a provision prohibiting any new students from receiving scholarships.
Now, a bi-partisan group of Senators is following suit in an attempt to ensure the continuation of the successful Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of up to $7,500 to low-income students to attend a private school of their choice in D.C. A press release issued on behalf of D.C. Parents for School Choice stated:
Senators have demanded that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allow a bill to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to receive an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate.
According to a letter signed by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Byrd (D-WV), George Voinovich (R-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and John Ensign (R-NV), the OSP has ‘provided a lifeline to many low-income children in the District of Columbia.’ The Senators set a specific deadline for floor time to discuss the OSP: January 31, 2010.
While the administration has remained mum on the recent events spelling the probable demise of the OSP, the negative impact of the Omnibus language is already taking its toll on district families. The Washington Scholarship Fund recently announced that due to the uncertain future of the OSP, they will no longer be in a position to administer the scholarships next year. And some parochial schools in the District are already signaling that the loss of scholarship students could force their closure. For the children of D.C., this likely means returning to the unsafe and ineffective public schools that failed them in the past.
Former D.C. City Council member Kevin Chavous is quoted in the press release issued by D.C. Parents for School Choice:
The time has come for Senators to stand and be counted. You either stand with low-income children and support a program that works to provide these children with the best education possible, or you stand with special interests. We support this bipartisan effort to save the OSP and we have not given up hope.
And Chavous is right. The children of D.C. deserve better than to have their educational futures slighted by disingenuous language inserted in a large year-end spending bill.