With the passage of the federal budget, the school voucher program in Washington, D.C. has been spared from the chopping block.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows low-income Washington D.C. children to use school vouchers to attend the private schools of their parents' choice, was scheduled to be terminated as its funding had run its course. The program was saved by its inclusion in the recent budget authorization.
“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.”
Not only will the program continue for another five years, but the budget also calls for an expansion of funding and increases for scholarship amounts for students, both of which provide even more families with access to options for their children’s education. The agreement also solidifies funding for D.C.'s public schools and public charter schools.
“I am delighted that we had the support of Speaker [John] Boehner, Rep. [Try] Gowdy and all those who took a stance for our children and assuring they continue to receive the quality education they are so deserving of,” said Sheila Jackson, mother of scholarship recipient Shawnee Jackson.
The funding approved in the budget will be divided into three equal portions. The Opportunity Scholarship Program, D.C. public schools and D.C. public charter schools will each receive $20 million. Over the five years of the program’s reauthorization, $300 million will be spent on K-12 students in Washington, D.C.
Since the program's inception in 2004, students participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program have posted strong graduation rates and reading improvement. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, students who were offered, and who used, scholarships posted a 91 percent high school graduation rate, which is more than 30 points higher than the graduation rates in D.C.'s public schools.
“There is absolutely no question in my mind that this program has changed my child’s life for the better,” Sheila Jackson said. “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.”