Today, the House will consider legislation to save and renew the successful, bipartisan D.C. school choice program that the Obama Administration and previous Democratic majority had abandoned. H.R. 471, 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 here in the nation’s capital with the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend a private school of their parents’ choice. A former chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee and longtime school choice advocate, Speaker Boehner introduced the SOAR Act in January.
That same week, Speaker Boehner invited several students, parents, and teachers involved in the D.C. school choice program to attend the State of the Union. One of his guests was eighth-grader Lesly Alvarez, whose recent testimony before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is featured in a new video in which Speaker Boehner discusses his support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program:
“Thank you for inviting me to tell my story. My name is Lesly Alvarez. I’m an eighth-grade opportunity scholarship student. I live at home with my mother, father, and brother.”
“It’s not every day that an eighth grader testifies before the United States Congress. But Lesly Alvarez had something important that she wanted to say.”
“The Opportunity Scholarship Program has been a miracle for me and hundreds of other students just like me.”
“Lesly is one of thousands of inner-city students who, were it not for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, would have had a hard time gaining access to a quality education.
“Her opportunity is unique. There’s only one program in the country where the federal government empowers low-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in Washington, D.C.
“Despite its proven success, the program faces an uncertain future. You see, the education establishment in America is opposed to greater competition in our school systems. They regard it as a threat when in reality it’s an opportunity to raise the bar.
“Education plays a critical role in making America competitive. But to get there, we need to make America’s education system itself more competitive. So if we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, we should start by saving the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
“I know I cannot change the minds of the adults who doubt the value of the Opportunity Scholarship Program. I know that I need to work hard every day to overcome my obstacles and demonstrate the value of my scholarship so that more kids like me can receive it too.”
“Lesly’s doing her part to make sure more students will have similar opportunities – now it’s time for us to do ours.”