It’s turning out to be a lousy Christmas for D.C. children. Late last night, the House dealt a hefty blow to the future of school choice in the District of Columbia. House leadership passed an omnibus appropriations bill which includes language to phase-out the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of up to $7,500 to low-income children to attend a private school of their choice. The omnibus prohibits any new students from receiving scholarships, phasing it out in the coming years. The omnibus now moves on to the Senate for consideration, and if passed, will effectively end the D.C. OSP – and the hopes of thousands of District children of receiving a better education.
Despite President Obama’s pledge to support “what works” in education, he and Secretary Arne Duncan have stood idly by as the future of the Opportunity Scholarship Program grows dimmer and dimmer. Lawmakers know the OSP works, D.C. residents know the OSP works, and families know the OSP works. Yet weeks continue to tick by as low-income D.C. children wait to hear the support of their President for their continued educational success.
Some members of Congress understand what’s at stake for District families. In a letter to Senator Richard Durbin and Representative José Serrano written on Monday, Minority Leader Boehner and Senator Joseph Lieberman others wrote:
This program has the overwhelming support of D.C. residents, parents, Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee, former Mayor Anthony Williams, and the D.C. City Council….Five years after the first scholarship students walked into their new schools, we know that the program is helping them both academically and socially…Local D.C. officials and residents have been very clear – they want this program to continue…In fact, during his sworn testimony before the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, Mayor Fenty stated that he supports adding new students to maintain the current cap.
As members contemplate the future of school choice this weekend, they should inform their decision by watching Let Me Rise: The Struggle to Save School Choice in the Nation’s Capital. Perhaps seeing the faces of the children and families so greatly impacted by the opportunity to receive a quality education will move them to support school choice in the District.