More school children in Washington, D.C., will benefit from school choice this fall, thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP).
Nearly 1,800 low-income students in the nation’s capital have received scholarships to attend private schools of their choice, 299 of whom are new voucher recipients. As the Washington Times reports, three-quarters of the new recipients “had attended a public school or public charter school designated as ‘in need of improvement.’”
Barbara Payne, whose 10-year-old son received a scholarship, told The Washington Post, “When you get an opportunity like this, you can’t let it go.” Her son Darnell “had been nervous about the prospect of attending his neighborhood middle school because of its reputation for fighting,” but he is now looking forward to being able to attend St. Thomas More in southeast D.C. thanks to the DCOSP.
Statistically, Darnell will have a better chance of graduating. Over 90 percent of DCOSP students graduate high school, compared to just 70 percent of their peers from similar backgrounds who remain in D.C. public schools. DCOSP parents are also more satisfied with their children’s schools and describe their children’s schools as safer.
These promising results come despite the DCOSP’s per-pupil spending being significantly lower than D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) per-pupil spending. A DCOSP high school student will receive a scholarship of up to $12,205 for the coming school year, and K-8 students will receive up to $8,136. In contrast, DCPS spends nearly $30,000 per student.
Since 2004, approximately 5,000 students have benefited from the DCOSP. Despite multiple attempts by Obama to kill it—most recently by zeroing out its funding in his fiscal year 2013 budget, reneging on a 2011 agreement to reauthorize the program—DCOSP goes forward. House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I–CT) continue to defend the program, as do school choice advocates and families.
Total enrollment in the DCOSP for this school year is yet to be determined. Not all students awarded vouchers will ultimately use their scholarships. However, participation has been on the rise, jumping nearly 60 percent last year over the year before.
A parent of a 14-year-old DCOSP student said it best: “I’m so happy!”