New bipartisan effort to renew the D.C. school choice program

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A bipartisan group of congressmen, led by Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Liebermann, has introduced legislation to prevent the Obama administration from phasing out the D.C. school choice program that has given disadvantaged children throughout the city access to elite schools.

The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act would renew the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which has reportedly been an educational boon for thousands of area students.

At a press conference on Wednesday, one of the men responsible for the initial OSP, Boehner, spoke of the need to provide quality education for all students, regardless of financial status.

“While cutting spending and helping our economy get back to creating jobs are top priorities for our new majority, education is important too. In his State of the Union message last night, President Obama spoke of the vital role education plays in making our nation competitive,” Boehner said. “We need to start by making America’s education system itself more competitive. There’s only one program in America where the federal government allows parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in D.C. The D.C. program provides a model that I believe can work well in other communities around the nation – it should be expanded, not ended. If we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, then this bipartisan education bill should be the starting point.”

D.C. parents and students protested harshly against the announcement in 2009 that the administration was bringing an end to the program. The 1,700 students who received scholarships prior to the program’s termination were grandfathered into the program until their graduation. New students attempting to enroll were barred from entry.

Reportedly, 216 students expecting a scholarship for the 2009-2010 school year were stripped of them following the White House’s decision to end the program.