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US Education Secretary Nominee Gets Pressed on DC OSP

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DC Families Ask Federal Officials To Release Scholarship Funds

February 25, 2016

WASHINGTON DC – As members of the US Senate HELP Committee were preparing for the confirmation hearing of Dr. John B. King, Jr. for US Education Secretary, Washington, DC students and parents were pressing Senate officials to help reauthorize the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) to see that unspent funds are released and to remove the uncertainty of the successful program’s continuation.

Their visit to Capitol Hill would result in an important exchange between US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Acting Secretary King during his hearing that makes clear that this issue will be front and center during King’s remaining time in office.

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“What can we do to move the administration, and you as perhaps the new Secretary, in the direction of using that $35 million to fund more scholarships?” asked Scott.

In response, King answered that the carryover funds were a safeguard against the program not being continued: “We think the carryover funds should be maintained to ensure that the currently enrolled students, if new appropriations are not made, have the opportunity to complete their education.”

Yet, as Scott would add, “it would be a shame not to take advantage of a program that is working so well.”

“Why do we have to come here every year and ask ‘please can you keep this program open’ when it’s responsible for keeping our kids in school?” asked a parent whose two children have gone through school as a result of the OSP. The families told staff members of both Senator Alexander and Senator Murray’s office that the program is responsible for keeping them in DC, and keeping their kids safe, as well.

The DC OSP has been an educational lifeline for nearly 6,400 low-income DC children since 2004-2005. More than 90 percent of DC OSP students graduate, and 90 percent go on to enroll in college.

“Not only can we not afford for this program to die, we must expand it to allow more students in need to experience what it’s like to be a success in school and lead productive lives. John King’s own experience shows the power of school choice and families who commit to a child’s education,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and president emeritus of The Center for Education Reform, who accompanied parents to Capitol Hill.

The current DC OSP has been on life support annually due to opposition from the Obama Administration. Advocates have argued that the reauthorization bill, HR 10, the Scholarships for Results and Opportunity Act of 2015, and full funding for the DC OSP should be included in the FY 2017 base appropriations bill for Financial Services and General Government.

To learn more about the DC OSP or arrange an interview with DC OSP families or CER Founder and President Emeritus Jeanne Allen, please call Michelle Tigani at (202) 750-0016.

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