SOTU FACT: Saving Successful D.C. School Choice Initiative Would Be Real Bipartisan Education Reform |

CLAIM: The Obama Administration is committed to bipartisan education reform.   

  • “We know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.”  (President Obama, State of the Union, January 25, 2011)

FACT: If President Obama is serious about bipartisan education reform, he should work with both parties to save the successful, bipartisan D.C. school choice initiative that his administration has declined to renew.  The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) provides low-income students an opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend a DC private school of their parent’s choice. 

  • The Obama Administration’s attempt to terminate the DC OSP in 2009 was partially thwarted by 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 from high school.  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. 
  • A study by the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) determined that the program has been a success for children and parents alike. Students who used their opportunity scholarships had a 91% graduation rate,  21% higher than students who were not offered scholarships.  Compared to DC public schools’ overall graduation rate, the graduation rate for students who used opportunity scholarships was 42% higher. 
  • Four consecutive studies of OSP by Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas found that parents and students alike are satisfied with the program.  Most importantly, “children have an improved attitude toward learning, increased self-esteem and enthusiasm toward school.”

Tomorrow, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will hold a press conference to announce they have introduced legislation to reauthorize the DC OSP.  Tonight, Speaker Boehner is hosting parents, students, and teachers who have benefited from the OSP as his guests for the State of the Union.   

  • Speaker Boehner said this week: “If the president is sincere about working together on education reform, we should start by saving this successful, bipartisan program that has helped so many underprivileged children get a quality education.”