Supporters of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program rallied at the U.S. Capitol yesterday in support of the program, recently defunded by Congress. The scholarship program has served over 3,000 students, whose families had an annual income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, since its inception in 2004. Initial estimates place the number of supporters at the rally at over 3000.
The main subplot inside of the fight to save the program is a fight to restore scholarships for 216 students who were given scholarships through the program, then had them rescinded after Congress defunded the program. The Washington, D.C. chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has created the website www.savethe216.com dedicated to the issue. The rally drew notable figures in politics and education such as House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony H. Williams, a Democrat, and nationally noted education reform author and activist Kevin Chavous.
CEAM has previously blogged about why Missouri should care about this fight in Washington, D.C. and the benefits of the program to the students. This program, and other efforts in Washington, D.C., has been the epicenter of the education reform and school choice movement in recent history.
Supporters of this program have held multiple rallies at the Capitol and in front of the Department of Education. So far the group has had no response from the Obama administration, according to a quote from Virginia Walden Ford, Executive Director for D.C. Parents for School Choice, in today’s Washington Times.
“We’ve had no response from Secretary [Duncan] at all.” “The president said in May he would make sure the kids would be protected, but that, of course, has not been the case. The message to me implies that they don’t have any intentions of dealing with this program. It’s really confusing.”
If the Obama administration and Congress continues course and ends the program, expect the rallies and protests to continue. This program has proven to increase test scores and parent satisfaction with the program is high. It is a travesty, especially for the 216 students who had their opportunity taken away, for this program to be ended. The administration and Congress must put kids’ interests first and continue this program.
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