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On the 7th Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

Opportunity Scholars Expanding!

(6th) Parent Power Growing
(5th) State Policy Changing
(4th) Reformie Ladies Lunching

(3rd) A Global Hub for Technology
(2nd) Model Legislation
And a Nominee for Opportunity!

 

The 7th in our 12-ish days of Christmas series, intended to bring gifts to education reformers everywhere!

by Princess V. Lyles on behalf of Opportunity DC, a project of CER and Democracy Builders

The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) launched in 2004. This vital choice program provides low-income families with federally funded scholarships to attend independent schools throughout the District of Columbia. Since its inception, over 6,500 families have seen their opportunities expand.

Our holiday wish is to see the program expanded as soon as possible!

Throughout 2016 our team of grassroots organizers worked side by side with families who receive this scholarship. We listened to their stories, heard from their children, and supported their efforts as they plead with Members of Congress to sustain and grow this vital program. We stand behind these amazing families because we know that the OSP works! Graduation rates for OSP recipients surpass ninety percent, compared to 69% in DCPS.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education. As Americans we have choice in almost every aspect of our daily lives…and yet for many low-income families, their zip code alone is the determining factor in the quality or their school. The OSP provides an additional option for DC families who aren’t selected in the lottery for their choice of traditional or public charter schools. The program is a rising tide in DC that has lifted all boats, as all three sectors have seen tremendous academic gains in

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Senator Scott Presses Acting Education Secretary King on DC Vouchers

Today at the Senate HELP Committee hearing on the nomination of Dr. John B. King Jr. for US Education Secretary, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), an ardent supporter of school choice, asked King about expanding DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP), as DC students and families watched.

Here’s the exchange between King and Scott:

SCOTT:  One area that we may have to agree to disagree on is the DC OSP. I know there are parents and students in the audience who have a very passionate position, as I do, on the importance of the DC OSP.

Especially when you look at your commitment to equity and excellence, and the fact that we have a classic example here in Washington DC of a process and a program that has produced numbers and success in a way that’s inconsistent with other schools.

I believe the graduation rate of DC OSP students is around 90%. Other schools in DC are around 62%, some going as low as 38%. The cost per pupil for the DC OSP is somewhere around $9,000-12,000, and for other DC schools it’s over $18,000. So you get about a 50% better graduation rate, and 88% of those students go on to a two-year or four-year college experience.

It seems to me that the administration, and you as Secretary, should take a second look at that program, and look for ways to integrate it and to use to carry over money of $35 million dollars to fund more scholarships. And quite frankly this is not just my perspective but a bipartisan perspective. You look at the support of Senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) as well as Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) who all have the same opinion of the DC OSP.

What can we do to move the

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National Lawmakers Championing Choice

Today, we celebrate national lawmakers like Rep. Luke Messer and Sen. Tim Scott who understand the importance of creating education opportunities for children, especially those who need it most.

They are champions of DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which has proven powerful in improving education for low-income children in the nation’s capital for over a decade. The average annual income for families who receive opportunity scholarships is less than $22,000, and approximately 98 percent of DCOSP students live in zoned neighborhood schools designated as in need of improvement. More than 90 percent of DCOSP participants graduate from their schools of choice – a much higher rate than DC’s traditional public schools (by at least 30 percent!) – and 88 percent go on to enroll in two or four year higher education institutions.

DC opportunity scholarship Save opportunity

More than 16,000 families have applied to the program since its inception. Data reveals that parents are both highly satisfied with their school of choice as well as the progress their children are making.

However, despite efforts to reauthorize the program in October 2015, the DCOSP was left out of the FY 2016 Omnibus Bill, creating uncertainty for these students most in need of educational attainment and options.

Take action here to ask Congress to make sure the DCOSP continues to be a vital lifeline for students.

This is one of a series of posts highlighting numerous diverse opportunities from towns to nations for National School Choice Week 2016.

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