A First Step in Congress for School Choice in D.C

Lindsey Burke /

Earlier today, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, a bill sponsored by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is now on its way to consideration in the House. The bill passed by a margin of 21 to 14. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the OGR committee, issued the following statement:

Today’s vote continues the bipartisan momentum to restore educational choice and opportunity for schoolchildren in the District of Columbia. Independent studies and reports from parents and students have validated the educational benefits the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has provided to low-income D.C. students. Without the robust and steadfast opposition of teachers’ union special interest groups, I believe there would have been consensus of support for this commonsense proposal.

Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee has also produced a powerful video about the D.C. OSP.

Brian Bolduc over at NRO describes the opposition to the D.C. voucher program:

Nonetheless, opposition was fierce. In 2009, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) slipped language into an omnibus spending bill to let the program expire. Current enrollees would receive vouchers until graduation, but no additional pupils could apply. Durbin shivered at the thought of unregulated schools. Students were attending ‘schools where somebody’s mom or somebody’s wife declared themselves [principals] and teachers and went in to teach without college degrees and received federal subsidies to do it,’ he told the Washington Times.

While it may make Senator Durbin uneasy, the D.C. OSP puts parents in the driver’s seat. And when families have a choice in their education, educational achievement and attainment improves. In fact, students in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program are outperforming their D.C. Public School peers in reading achievement, and have made statistically significant gains in academic attainment. Students who received vouchers and used them to attend private school had a 91 percent graduation rate, according to federally-mandated evaluations.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has been a lifeline for low-income children living in the nation’s capitol. The $7,500 scholarships have insured they have access to quality schools in the District, and are no longer relegated to often underperforming and unsafe D.C. Public Schools.

To learn more about the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, visit www.VoicesOfSchoolChoice.org