7/31 @ 11:30 AM ET | Speaker Boehner Press Conference - WATCH LIVE HERE

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) held a press conference today to announce they have introduced legislation to save the successful, bipartisan D.C. school choice program, which has helped thousands of disadvantaged students gain access to a quality education.  The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act would renew the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which the Obama Administration is phasing out despite strong evidence of success.

“While cutting spending and helping our economy get back to creating jobs are top priorities for our new majority, education is important too.  In his State of the Union message last night, President Obama spoke of the vital role education plays in making our nation competitive,” Speaker Boehner said.  “We need to start by making America’s education system itself more competitive.  There’s only one program in America where the federal government allows parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in D.C.  The D.C. program provides a model that I believe can work well in other communities around the nation – it should be expanded, not ended.  If we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, then this bipartisan education bill should be the starting point.

Speaker Boehner helped create the OSP when he was chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee and Senator Lieberman is the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.  In 2009, the Obama Administration attempted to terminate the OSP only to be met with a sustained outcry from D.C. parents and residents, which led to a reprieve that allowed students already receiving scholarships to use them until they graduated.  Nevertheless, the Administration revoked scholarships from 216 students who had been slated to receive scholarships for the 2009-10 school year.  New students are barred from enrolling in the program.


Speaker Boehner added,
“The education establishment in America is opposed to greater competition in our school systems, because they see it as a threat.  That’s unfortunate, and it does a disservice to the children of our country.  To his credit, President Obama has challenged the teachers unions on issues like performance pay – and I hope he’ll challenge them on this.  I hope the Obama Administration will assure the children, teachers, and parents of this city that this successful program will be allowed to continue – and work with us to make it a model for similar programs throughout our country.”

Last night, Speaker Boehner
hosted students, parents, and teachers associated with Washington’s inner-city Catholic schools through the Consortium of Catholic Academies in the House gallery for the State of the Union address.  Three of the four students in attendance attend Catholic schools in the District through scholarships from the OSP.  A high-resolution image of Speaker Boehner and his guests can be found here.

NOTE:
A summary of the bipartisan Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act is available here.  Original sponsors and co-sponsors of the SOAR Act include Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), Darrell Issa (R-CA), John Kline (R-MN), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Ensign (R-NV).