February 4 2010

Will the Senate Save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program?

Vicki E. Alger

On Monday, President Obama made it clear in his budget that he plans to kill the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program-but not if Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have anything to say about it.

Sens. Lieberman and Collins will hold a press conference this morning on the importance of saving the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and their plans to offer a bipartisan reauthorization proposal as an amendment to legislation that is moving in the Senate.

Last summer, Sens. Lieberman and Collins, along with Lamar Alexander (R-TN)Robert Byrd (D-WV), John Ensign (R-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and George Voinovich (R-OH), proposed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act. Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and former D.C. Councilman Kevin Chavous also supported this bi-partisan reauthorization and expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The SOAR Act would raise the current Opportunity Scholarship amount from $7,500 to $9,000 for elementary and middle-school students, and $11,000 for high school students. As Sen. Lieberman vowed last summer, "The fight goes on. We are not giving up because we know how much this means to you and your children." The president's decision this week to kill the program has intensified bi-partisan efforts on behalf of students forced to return and remain in dangerous, dysfunctional D.C. Public Schools.

That should be welcome news for the low-income parents of 216 schoolchildren unable to return to their private schools last fall because Education Secretary Arne Duncan rescinded their scholarships. A mother of one of those scholarship students expressed her support for the SOAR Act, which she believes would help ensure "every parent has the opportunity that I had."

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