D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program

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The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarships to low-income children in Washington D.C. for tuition and other fees at participating private schools. The program was the first Federally funded school voucher program in the United States. It was first approved in 2003 and allowed to expire in 2009.[1] The program was reauthorized under the SOAR Act in 2011.

Background[edit]

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003, creating the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to students from low-income families to attend a private school of choice.[1] The program targeted 2,000 children from low-income families in Washington D.C. These children were given funding to help offset the cost of private schooling.[1] In 2008, the program funded attendance at 54 D.C. private schools for students from families with an average income of $22,736, "or about 107 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four."[1]

In 2009 the program faced a phase out with President Barack Obama’s 2009 budget proposal cutting all funding for the program and including language to prohibit any new students from receiving scholarships.[2]

In 2011, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act to restore funding for the program and again allow new students to participate. The entirety of the SOAR Act was included in the 2011 long-term continuing resolution, the passage of which resulted in a five-year reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.[3] The 2004 legislation had permitted students to receive scholarships of up to $7,500, whereas the 2011 bill provides scholarships of up to $8,000 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and up to $12,000 for students in grades 9-12.[4]

In February 2012, President Barack Obama announced his budget proposal for 2013, which did not include new funding for the program.[5] According to ABC News, the budget stated that the program's budget for 2012 had enough money to also cover students' vouchers in 2013, but did not mention future years.[5] The lack of funding was criticized by conservatives, including The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason L. Riley, who argued that the program costs less per child and has a higher graduation rate than public schools in Washington D.C.[6][7]

Program Administrator[edit]

Between 2004 and 2010, the Washington Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit group, administered the program, which was funded at $12 million a year.[1] As of May 2010, the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation is serving as the administrator of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program is appropriated to receive $20 million per year,[8] beginning in the 2012-13 school year.[4]

Funding Status[edit]

2011

  • Appropriation: $17,369,000

2010

  • Appropriation: $13,200,000
  • Number of New Awards Anticipated: 0
  • Number of Continuation Awards: 1

2009

  • Appropriations: $14,000,000

2008

  • Appropriations: $14,800,000
  • Number of New Awards Anticipated: 0
  • Number of Continuation Awards: 1
  • Average Continuation Award: $12,694,186

2007

  • Appropriations: $13,860,000
  • Number of New Awards Anticipated: 0
  • Number of Continuation Awards: 1
  • Average Continuation Award: $12,454,200

2006

  • Appropriations: $13,860,000
  • Number of New Awards Anticipated: 0
  • Number of Continuation Awards: 1
  • Average Continuation Award: $12,454,200

2005

  • Appropriations: $13,888,000

2004

  • Appropriations: $13,917,400

Note: FY 2004 was the first year of funding for this program. Funds are appropriated to the District of Columbia to be administered and awarded by the Department of Education. Annual funding status estimates provided by U.S. Department of Education.

Support and success[edit]

The program has received support from a number of prominent D.C. politicians, including former mayor Anthony A. Williams, former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous and former D.C. Board of Education president Peggy Cooper Cafritz.[1] It was opposed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray. [9]

In 2010, a randomized controlled trial conducted under the auspices of the Department of Education examined the impacts of the OSP students. While the study reported that there "is no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement," the program was found to have a significant impact on graduation rates.[10] Students who were offered vouchers had a graduation rate of 82%, while those who actually used their vouchers had a graduation rate of 91%. By comparison, the rate for students who did not receive vouchers was only 70%. The study received the Department of Education’s highest rating for scientific rigor.[11] Over 90% of the study’s participants were African American, and most of the remainder were Latino American.

Further research found that students who received vouchers were 25% more likely to enroll in college than students with similar demographic characteristics who did not receive vouchers.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Strauss, Valerie; Bill Turque (9 June 2008). "Fate of D.C. Voucher Program Darkens". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company). pp. 1–2. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Zimmerman, Mark (13 May 2009). "Obama proposal seen as beginning of end for school voucher program". Catholic News Service (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "Disadvantaged Children Win as US House Passes Voucher Bill". Reuters. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Digest for H.R. 471 112th Congress, 1st Session". GOP.gov. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Sam Ford (February 14, 2012). "D.C. school voucher funding left out of 2013 federal budget". ABC News. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  6. ^ Lindsey Burke (February 13, 2012). "Obama’s Budget Ends Funding for D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program". The Foundry. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Jason L. Riley (February 14, 2012). "Obama's War on School Vouchers". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ Samuels, Robert (25 June 2011). "Parents rush to apply for D.C. private school vouchers". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Much-Debated Scholarship Program for D.C. Students Is Renewed". Washington Post. June 18, 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Wolf, Patrick. "Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Final Report". U.S. Department of Education -- Institute of Education Sciences. 
  11. ^ "WWC Quick Review of the Report “Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Final Report”". U.S. Department of Education -- Institute of Education Sciences. 
  12. ^ "Funding Cuts for Programs That Send More Kids to Graduation AND College?". Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.