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June 19, 2012

Boehner and Lieberman (Once Again) Save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program


Senator Joe Lieberman and Speaker John Boehner have been stalwart advocates of school choice and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. And thanks once again to their leadership, low-income children in the nation’s capital will have access to vouchers to attend a private school of their choice, providing them a lifeline out of the underperforming D.C. Public School System. Speaker Boehner’s office issued a press release this morning stating that he and Senator Lieberman had reached an agreement with President Obama to fully implement the D.C. OSP.

Last year, President Obama agreed to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, but proceeded to place the OSP on the chopping block by zeroing out program funding in his FY 2013 budget request to Congress. More than 30 children had their scholarship offers rescinded as a result, and the Department of Education capped enrollment in the OSP.

Now, D.C. families can breathe easier. According to Speaker Boehner’s office, the agreement means that:

  • There will be no cap on enrollment in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
  • Parents seeking to renew their child’s scholarship can continue to submit their applications and they will be notified as soon as possible.
  • Parents whose children don’t currently participate in the program may apply for a new scholarship, and they will be notified as soon as their applications are processed.

The 1,615-student cap on enrollment will now be lifted and as many children as meet the income threshold will be able to apply. The U.S. Department of Education will now also be able to continue the congressionally mandated evaluations of the D.C. OSP, which have shown statistically significant improvements in graduation rates as a result of voucher use. In a statement, Speaker Boehner noted:

For eight years, this scholarship program has empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children. . . .Thousands of families have taken advantage of this scholarship program to give their children an opportunity to succeed in life, and there’s strong evidence that it’s both effective and cost-effective. I’m pleased that an agreement has been reached to expand the program, consistent with the law already on the books.

The school-choice march continues, and families in the nation’s capital are again empowered to define their children’s educational destinies.

Lindsey Burke is Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation.

This article first appeared on NationalReview.com

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