April 17 2012
Vicki E. Alger
A program that’s popular, working, and fiscally responsible—so what are Washington politicians supposed to do? Kill it—again and again. That’s what going on with the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act.
A continuation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, SOAR was approved as part of lasts year’s budget with a five-year, $60 million appropriation. Those funds were supposed to be divided equally among DC public schools, charter schools, and the SOAR program enabling low-income students to transfer out of failing public schools into private schools using scholarships worth up to $12,000 (less than half of the $28,000 average per-pupil cost at DC public schools).
Since 2004, nearly 10,000 families have tried to participate in the scholarship program. Now it’s at risk of extinction because the President’s budget doesn’t authorize a single penny for new students to participate in the program—effectively capping it at about 1,600 students.
As the Washington Post editorialized about the SOAR program
But teachers unions oppose it and, with the help of obliging Democrats, have tried — unrelentingly — to kill the program. …Does the administration really want to send the message—much like the one delivered in 2009 when Democrats tried to kill the vouchers—that there is not much of a future for the program? Surely, it shouldn’t be among the president’s priorities to single out for attack a tiny federal program that not only works—in the judgment of federal evaluators—but also enjoys bipartisan support. If it is, we trust that [House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)] would step in, as he did last year, to save a program that D.C.’s poorest families value for their children.