School choice returns to D.C.

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School choice advocates applauded a provision in the continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of the year, which restores and strengthens the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for five years.

“Today’s reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should send a strong message to parents across the country who seek to fight for their children’s rights: if you fight for your children and you never give up, the road will not always be easy, but in the end—justice will prevail,” said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. “This reauthorization provides hope and opportunity to thousands of children in the District of Columbia whose parents only seek to provide them with better futures and a chance to succeed and achieve their dreams.”

The program provides low income students with scholarship money to attend the private school of their choice. The D.C. public schools rank 51st in the nation and are considered to be among the most dangerous in the country.

According to the Heritage Foundation, students who in the past have received a voucher and attended a private school had a 91 percent graduation rate, compared to the 55 percent graduation rates in the D.C. Public Schools.

“There is no mistaking the significance of this victory,” said Kevin P. Chavous, former D.C. Councilman and chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. “Low-income families and committed legislative advocates have triumphed over richly-funded special interests who, just two years ago, were writing the obituary of this program and trouncing the hopes and dreams of children. Today, those children have beaten the odds.”

The provision, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, is the only piece of legislation Speaker John Boehner is expected to sponsor this year.

“There is absolutely no question in my mind that this program has changed my daughter’s life for the better,” said Sheila Jackson, mother of scholarship recipient Shawnee Jackson. “She is succeeding, loving school, and dreaming big. This is everything a parent could ask for. And today we are so grateful that other children will have the same opportunities.”

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