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House and Senate Leaders Seek Thorough Evaluation of D.C. School Choice Funding in President’s Budget

Today, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) joined House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in requesting a required evaluation of the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and the administration’s proposal to zero out program funding for Fiscal Year 2013.

Last spring, the president signed into law the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act as part of the Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Defense and Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-10). This law authorized an annual appropriation of $60 million for the next five years, equally divided among the D.C. OSP, D.C. public schools, and D.C. public charter schools, allowing students the priceless opportunity to receive a quality education. In the president’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, this annual funding was completely eliminated.

The D.C. OSP provides needy families in the nation’s capital the opportunity and financial support to gain access to a better education. On average, participating families have an annual income of less than $24,000, and more than 92 of participating students would otherwise be forced to attend a failing school.

In letters to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation President Ellen London, Chairman Kline and his bipartisan colleagues request additional information on the administration’s decision to eliminate funding, as well as the working relationship between the Trust and the Department of Education. As the House and Senate leaders state in their letter to Secretary Duncan:

Since its inception, the OSP has proven to be both popular and successful. As of March 7, 2012, nearly 1,000 applications had been submitted for the 2012-13 school year. Furthermore, at a Senate hearing on the topic last year, the lead investigator of a 2010 Department of Education study stated, "the research evidence and testimonials of parents confirm that the District of Columbia is a better place because of the Opportunity Scholarship Program." Congress is committed to ensuring the program's continued success, including fully funding the scholarship program.

In order for the program to operate optimally, it is imperative that the program administrator and the Department of Education work in close collaboration. As the end of the current school year approaches, serious concerns have arisen about the state of this working relationship, as well as the Department's implementation of the law.

To read the full text of the letter to Secretary Duncan, click here.

To read the full text of the letter to D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation President Ellen London, click here.

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