Rarely can you find an issue in our nation’s capital that brings together diverse people from both political parties, various races and religious backgrounds and people of great wealth and of limited means. The fight to save the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program has done just that, gaining the support of people ranging from Newt Gingrich to Al Sharpton. The current federal budget proposal denies continued funding for the program.
The latest turn in the fight to save the program comes from a bipartisan group of Senators who have introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act . The bill was introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), and John Ensign (R-NV) and would provide a 5-year reauthorization of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which allows low income D.C. children, particularly those attending failing public schools, to obtain a voucher to attend private schools in the area.
The program is wildly popular with participating students and their families. Approximately 2000 people attended a rally on May 6 supporting the program where students, and their parents, who have received scholarships from the program spoke out and pleaded that congress continue the program. Students participating in the program have also posted online videos asking President Obama to pressure Congress to keep funding for the program. Furthermore, a recent Department of Education study shows that the program is effective in helping students and that parents of these students are highly satisfied with the program.
The fate of extending this program remains to be seen. The current students in the program will be funded through high school, but the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act , or another fix, would have to pass for the program to be reauthorized. Let’s hope that students and their families in Washington, DC will continue to have options outside of the failing public school system.
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