President's Budget Proposal Fails to Fund D.C. Voucher Program

By | February 13, 2012

President ObamaWASHINGTON, February 13, 2012  — President Barack Obama’s newly-released federal budget would not provide funding to the highly-successful D.C. voucher program, despite an agreement signed by the president last year that reauthorized the program.

The American Federation —the nation’s voice for school choice—strongly decries the president’s failure to provide funding to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which currently provides scholarships to more than 1,600 children from low-income families across the nation’s capital to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice.

Though the OSP is in little danger of going unfunded—Congress is charged with appropriating funds, and House Speaker John Boehner is an ardent defender of the program—the move by President Obama is effectively a reneging on the promise he made last April in a budget agreement he signed that helped avert a government shutdown.

“The president says he’s for education reform, but his actions continually aim to send low-income and minority students back to schools that are failing them academically, are unsafe, or are otherwise not meeting their needs,” said AFC senior advisor Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. Councilman. “This latest hypocrisy is just the most recent instance in which the president has stood in the way of students who are improving test scores and graduating in higher numbers.”

Since barring new students from entering the program in 2009, Obama has made numerous statements expressing support for reform that have contradicted his actions regarding the OSP. In 2010, President Obama publicly stated that he would not send his daughters to D.C. public schools, despite actively working to bar low-income families from having that choice.

And while the president rightly discusses the nation’s severe dropout crisis—as he did in last month’s State of the Union address—he’s unwilling to support the OSP, where students’ 91 percent graduation rate is 21 percentage points higher than those who applied but couldn’t get a scholarship. And according to the Institute of Education Sciences—the primary research arm of the U.S. Department of Education—the OSP has the second highest achievement impact of any of the programs it has studied so far.

Since the program’s inception in 2004, more than 10,000 families have applied to participate in the OSP. Four years of studies from Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas have shown overwhelming parental satisfaction, and 74 percent of D.C. residents polled a year ago supported reauthorization.  More than 520 applications were submitted at a signup event for the program on Saturday, hosted by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation.

“By any reasonable measure, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has been an overwhelming success,” Chavous said. “President Obama wouldn’t be where he is today without a private school scholarship. He needs to stop playing politics and do what’s right for kids.”

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