House Minority Leader John Boehner (R–OH) made quite a statement on Monday when, on his first day back in office post-elections, he took time out to meet with parents and children enrolled in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP). In doing so, Boehner sent a clear signal to D.C. families of his support for school choice in the nation’s capital. A statement released on Boehner’s blog noted:
Boehner, a former chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, reaffirmed his commitment to renewing the DC OSP despite concerted efforts by education reform opponents to end the program. … The meeting came more than a year after education reform opponents in Washington first tried to terminate this successful scholarship program. … The Obama Administration announced its intent to phase out the program by denying any new participants, and 216 students who had been slated to receive scholarships for the 2009–10 school year had those awards taken away.
Education reform opponents now have an important choice to make: will they continue to stand with their special interest allies, or will they join us in helping to ensure more of Washington, D.C.’s most vulnerable students can obtain a quality education?
The DCOSP has been a resounding success. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that families were overwhelmingly satisfied with the scholarship program. Quantitative assessments of the voucher program have found that the program has had a positive impact on children’s academic achievement, particularly reading achievement. And most notably, the most recent evaluation of the DCOSP by the Department of Education revealed that students who received a voucher and used it to attend private school had a 91 percent graduation rate—significantly higher than students who did not receive a voucher.
About 1,200 students are currently benefiting from the DCOSP. Without continued support for school choice in D.C., many of those students could have to return to the underperforming and unsafe public school system. But support for the DCOSP could also mean a lifeline for children currently trapped in underperforming public schools. The demand for scholarships is high: Prior to being put on life support by the Obama Administration, there were four applicants for every available scholarship.
These scholarships, at $7,500, are not even half of the more than $18,000 spent per pupil per year in the D.C. Public School System. And yet the DCOSP is achieving results that the D.C. public school system has been unable to produce for decades.
Boehner has been a leader in fighting for quality educational options for low-income children in the nation’s capital. And as a result of his strong support, DCOSP families are energized and hopeful that the future of education in D.C. is one full of choice and opportunity.