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Kline Statement: H.R. 471, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act

I rise today in support of H.R. 471, legislation that would reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Created in 2004 with bipartisan support, this program has provided an educational lifeline and meaningful choices to thousands of District families. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Everyone agrees our education system is broken and in need of repair. As we work to craft targeted reforms, we must support existing education programs that improve student achievement. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is one such initiative with a proven track record of success.

Over the past seven years, D.C. OSP has helped more than 3,000 low-income children receive a high-quality education at the private school of their choice.

The Department of Education’s own research confirms the program’s success in increasing graduation rates to more than 90 percent in a low-income population of students previously trapped in underperforming schools.

Additionally, D.C. OSP has improved parental involvement in education. Four consecutive studies have shown parents of program participants are more engaged in their children’s education and more satisfied with their academic progress than parents of public school students.

The evidence is clear: this innovative program works, and serves as a real alternative for parents who want to give their children the educational opportunities they never had.

Yet despite this proof, the administration and some in Congress are determined to destroy this ground-breaking program. Without D.C. OSP, thousands of parents will be denied an opportunity to make decisions about their children’s education. Equally troubling, thousands of children will be denied the opportunity to achieve their full potential, leaving them unequipped to succeed in a 21st century workforce.

We must put children first and stop a vocal minority from taking vital opportunities away from thousands of D.C. families. The program has received widespread support from Washington residents, including three former Democrat mayors, several members of the D.C. City Council, and thousands of students and parents. Congress cannot turn its back and deny students a chance for a better future. As our nation fights to get back on the path to prosperity, we cannot afford to eliminate critical education opportunities that will prepare our nation’s youth for tomorrow’s workforce.

All parents should be empowered to decide what school is best for their child. A quality education should not be a luxury available only to those who can afford it.

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