When Barack Obama took office on the mantle of Hope and Change, one of the first moves he and his Democratic allies in Congress made was to shut down the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program to new students. Despite a track record of sterling success in moving children in low-income families from failing public schools and giving them a chance at academic success — and a brighter future — Democrats cut funding to the DCOSP and consigned the children of the District of Columbia to the public-school monopoly. In an exclusive video for Hot Air readers, the office of Speaker John Boehner reminds us that the budget passed by House GOP will restore the program in the SOAR Act, and that Senator Joe Lieberman has a similar provision in the upper chamber:
The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act would reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which began in 2004 and provides low-income students in Washington, D.C. with the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend a private school of their parents’ choice. In summary, the D.C. school choice bill:
- Improves the current D.C. school choice program for students, families, and taxpayers: The bipartisan bill not only renews this landmark program, it improves it by increasing scholarship awards for students (up to $12,000 per year for high school students and $8,000 per year for elementary school students), capping administrative expenses at three percent to make sure dollars are going to the students who need them, and adopting several Democratic reforms to ensure schools are accredited and have the necessary financial resources.
- Tracks students’ academic achievement: The school choice program would continue to undergo rigorous evaluation comparing the academic achievement, retention and dropout rates, and other key indicators between D.C. public schools and those schools participating in the D.C. opportunity scholarships program.
- Assesses parents’ satisfaction and involvement with the education of their children: The program would continue to evaluate whether it is expanding choices for parents and increasing parental involvement with their children’s education. It would also continue to work to identify the reasons parents choose to participate in the program in the first place.
- Ensures enrolled students are not punished for their parents’ success: In the past, some students lost their opportunity scholarships when their parents’ economic situation modestly improved. In an effort to make sure there is no disincentive to accept job promotions or get married, the household income limit would be increased to 300 percent of the federal poverty for students already participating in the school choice program.
But that’s not all. The legislation would also authorize funding for school improvement for D.C. public schools and D.C. public charter schools, and ensure that funding is equally divided between OSP schools, D.C. public schools, and D.C. public charter schools.
Conservatives usually balk at federal initiatives on education, and for good reason — federal mandates eliminate local control and discourage parental involvement. However, Congress has jurisdiction over Washington DC and pays for the upkeep and maintenance of its schools. The Lieberman-Boehner SOAR Act puts those resources into parental choice and eventually will force public schools to adapt and compete — as happened before Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid pulled the plug on actual Hope and Change.