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Editorial: For D.C., reauthorizing school choice is the right choice

March 14, 2016
The Washington Post

IN THEIR zeal to kill off the federally funded scholarship program for poor D.C. students, opponents have peddled the fiction that Congress foisted the program on an unwilling city. In fact, the program was backed enthusiastically by then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and a key D.C. Council member, and parent demand for scholarships far outstrips supply. So let’s hope that a letter from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and a majority of the council urging continued funding for the program finally puts the myth to rest and helps allow more students to benefit from the program.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides needy students with vouchers to attend private schools of their choice, is up for reauthorization. As has happened before with all-too-depressing frequency since the scholarships were established in 2004, the program is under attack from unions and other opponents. If Congress fails to act, the city will also lose out on millions of dollars that go to its traditional and charter public schools as part of the three-sector federal funding deal.

The very real danger of the District losing $150 million in federal funds over five years apparently finally sunk in with members of the council. Three members who previously had urged that the program be killed joined Ms. Bowser and five other members, including council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), in a March 7 letter to congressional leaders in support of the Scholarships for Opportunities and Results (SOAR) Act. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in a statement called the support of the mayor and council “an important boost” in the effort to get reauthorization to the president’s desk.

We hope so. Mr. Ryan is right that “when we

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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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