District of Columbia

D.C. Scholarship Bill Passes U.S. House

On March 30, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act with a vote of 225 to 195. This legislation restores and expands the effective and popular D.C. Opportunity Scholarships Program. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner personally sponsored this legislation and it may be the only legislation he sponsors this year.

According to a poll released just last month, 74 percent of D.C. residents support the program’s restoration and expansion. The program also had broad-based support from the D.C. City Council and three former mayors. The SOAR Act provides scholarships to disadvantaged youth to attend the school of their choice. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, students who used their scholarships posted graduation rates of 91 percent — more than 30 points higher than the graduation rates in D.C.’s public schools — and experienced clear reading gains. “The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is one of the most effective federally-funded education programs ever studied,” said American Federation for Chuildren board member Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. City Councilman.

A companion bill with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate will be debated soon.

Portions of this article were excerpted from the American Federation for Children.

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