Education Secretary Pleads for More D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Support

A few weeks ago I told you about the D.C. voucher program that was threatened by Congress. Well, the 1,900 kids who have found hope and educational opportunity through the publicly-funded scholarships to attend private schools were relieved to learn that Congress decided to continue funding for at least one more year.

In today’s Washington Post, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings makes the case that the program’s success calls for more than just putting it on temporary maintenance. The kids benefiting from the program have found their way out of a bad situation:

Whether the children were failing school or the schools were failing the children, the District of Columbia’s leaders finally became fed up with institutionalized failure. They designed a unique “three-sector” strategy that provided new funding for public schools and public charter schools and new educational options for needy children.

Working with the District, Congress and the Bush administration then implemented the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act in 2004, giving birth to D.C. opportunity scholarships.

The program has clearly filled a need. Evidence does not just appear on a chart. It is visible in the long lines of parents waiting to participate. More than 7,000 students have applied for scholarships. Eligible applicants represent nearly one in eight low-income District students.

Margaret SpellingsMargaret Spellings urges Congress to commit support for the program beyond just the next year, and to expand scholarships to meet the demand of those on the waiting list. If you want to see testimonials from real families affected by the D.C. opportunity scholarships, check out the Voices of School Choice website.

While school choice and opportunity for struggling D.C. kids has dodged a major bullet, there’s certainly far more room to improve the support provided. And Colorado lawmakers might learn a lesson or two from the program’s success.