Wednesday, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) was the subject of a hearing held by Senators Joe Lieberman (I–CT) and Susan Collins (R–ME). Although the program is boosting the graduation rates of students who use a scholarship to attend private school and is overwhelmingly popular among parents and D.C. residents, the last Congress blocked new students from entering, and the Obama Administration has offered no support.
Today, Senators, media, and proponents and opponents alike were once again reminded of the vital role this program plays for children and their families. Said committee chairman Lieberman in his opening remarks:
The same reasoning that convinced Congress to create the OSP in 2003 still holds—we must give children a choice to get a good education when their schools are failing them. … We know parents want more choices than they have. Those who can afford to send their children to private schools do so. They do so as good parents who care deeply about their children’s future. This is a program that gives that same choice and opportunity to lower income parents who want the best for their children too. For me, this is an issue of fundamental fairness.
Kevin P. Chavous, chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, testifying before the committee, called the program a “lifeline” for D.C. students who would otherwise be stuck in failing schools. Considering the program’s remarkable track record, it rightfully earns such a title.
Patrick Wolf, the lead investigator for the congressionally mandated evaluations of the DCOSP, explained during the hearing that 91 percent of DCOSP students graduate from high school. His research also found that DCOSP students attain higher reading achievement than their classmates who don’t participate in the program.
House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) has made school choice in the District a top priority and recently introduced the SOAR Act, which would reauthorize and expand the program.
And the DCOSP is a ray of hope for so many families. As Chavous remarked during the hearing:
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program sends a clear message. … If you’re poor and stuck in a school that is failing … we’re not going to make an experiment of you—we’re going to help you. … We’re going to give you a chance at success.