Commentary: Congress Poised to Reauthorize Wildly Successful DC Voucher Program

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Despite Unequivocal Success, Obama Administration and Teachers Unions Vehemently Opposed to School Vouchers

This Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) bill that aims to reauthorize the tremendously successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program was passed in a House vote 225-195. This program, the DC OSP, originated in 2004 and provided low-income children in Washington, DC with vouchers of up to $7,500 to attend private schools in the area.

The program’s immediate results were astounding. Thorough analysis determined that students in the DC OSP had glaringly higher test scores and graduation rates than their counterparts. 91 percent of students in the program graduated, whereas only 55 percent of all area public school students did. Reading scores showed immense improvement.

In addition to the unequivocal evidence for heightened student performance, it placed no financial strain on public schools. In actuality, it saved millions of dollars for the city, as a Cato Institute report testifies to. Whereas the average per pupil spending in DC public schools is around $28,000, the vouchers cost a mere $7,500 per student.

Despite the program’s inspirational success, it faces stiff political opposition from teachers unions, many Democrats, including President Obama, and a minority of Republicans. Many opponents argue that taxpayer dollars should be dedicated solely towards improving conventional public schools.

During the previous Congress, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation which led to funding for the program drying out in 2009.

Boehner is now attempting to resurrect the DC OSP with legislation which would not only revive the funding for this program but expand its accessibility to potential recipients. Immediately the White House announced its ardent opposition to the program.

“Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.,” reads a White House press release.

Such flagrant misinformation received immediate rebuttal from the Washington Post. The paper cited the findings of Patrick Wolf, the principal investigator of the program’s performance. Wolf asserted boosted high school graduation rates and a wealth of evidence that students also advanced in reading achievement.

“The DC OSP has accomplished what few educational interventions can claim: It markedly improved important education outcomes for low-income inner-city students.”

Despite the successful vote this week in the House of Representatives, Boehner’s bill still faces an uncertain future. It will face a stiff challenge in the Senate and the threat of a Presidential veto. It is absolutely imperative that the voices of D.C.’s students and their parents are heard over the false rhetoric and partisanship emanating from the White House.

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