Policy Documents

DC School Choice Leaders Blast Appropriators' Decision to Kill School Voucher Program

December 10, 2009

The leaders of D.C.’s school choice movement, Kevin P. Chavous (former D.C. Councilman) and Virginia Walden Ford (executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice), today issued the following statement:

“House and Senate Appropriators this week ignored the wishes of D.C.’s mayor, D.C.’s public schools chancellor, a majority of D.C.’s city council, and more than 70 percent of D.C. residents and have mandated the slow death of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This successful school voucher program—for D.C.’s poorest families—has allowed more than 3,300 children to attend the best schools they have ever known.

The decision to end the program, a decision buried in a thousand-page spending bill and announced right before the holidays, destroys the hopes and dreams of thousands of D.C. families. Parents and children have rallied countless times over the past year in support of reauthorization and in favor of strengthening the OSP.

Yet, despite the clearly positive results and the proven success of this program, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Jose Serrano, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Secretary Arne Duncan worked together to kill the OSP. Funding the program only for existing children shrinks the program each year, compromises the federal evaluation of the program, denies entry to the siblings of existing participants, and punishes those children waiting in line by sentencing them to failing and often unsafe schools.

What is incredibly disappointing to low-income families in Washington, D.C. has been the silence of President Barack Obama. The President, who benefited from K-12 scholarships himself, worked on behalf of low-income families in Chicago, and exercises school choice as a parent, has stood silently on the sidelines while his Secretary of Education belittled the importance of helping such a small number of children in the nation’s capital.

Now, the fate of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and the low-income children it serves and could serve depends on the willingness of Congressional supporters to insist that the FY 2010 budget allows additional children to participate in the OSP. We call on President Obama and Senator Durbin to stand up and do the right thing. Stand with the children of low-income families in Washington, D.C. who deserve access to a quality education right now—not five years from now—but right now. These children deserve that opportunity."