Amid the partisan bickering and procedural conundrums of the health care bill last week, a small group of senators from both sides of the aisle found common ground in advocating for school choice in the District of Columbia.
An amendment to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for the next five years was brought to the floor Tuesday evening by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and a bipartisan coalition of cosponsors including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Byrd (D-WV), and George Voinovich (R-OH). Although the Senate voted 42-55 to strike down the amendment, Senators Lieberman, Feinstein, and Voinovich passionately defended the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Senator Lieberman particularly noted the scholarship’s importance to the many students and families currently enrolled in the program and illustrated the necessity of continuing to provide disadvantaged children the opportunity to escape failing public schools.
Senator Feinstein also expressed support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship by highlighting the experiences of a few students who are benefiting from the program in their academic and personal lives. Many of the low-income students enrolled in the program through high school now attend colleges throughout the country.
Senator Voinovich outlined the political and financial struggles the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship has faced, specifically within the FY 2011 budget, and noted the paucity of reasonable objections to reauthorizing the program.
The amendment would have allowed currently enrolled students to remain at their choice of private or parochial schools and afforded thousands of other eligible children the same opportunity of school choice. If programs like the Opportunity Scholarships are to continue providing low-income children a chance at a safe and effective school, Americans need to stand up for educational choice for families in the District and around the country.
Sarah Torre currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm