Monday, March 28, 2011

D.C. Parents Call on Congress to Put the Needs of Kids Ahead of Special Interest Politics

Vote Expected Next Week on Extension of D.C. School Choice Program

Families from across the District of Columbia called on Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to restore the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and provide hope to thousands of low-income children.

According to D.C. Parents for School Choice, legislation sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner (the SOAR Act) will likely lead to higher graduation rates for low-income D.C. children, higher parental satisfaction rates with education, increased achievement in reading, and a significant improvement in D.C.'s public schools. A vote on the legislation is expected by next week.

"We call on all Members of Congress to put the interests of children and families first and to vote 'yes' on Speaker Boehner's legislation," said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. "It is morally outrageous that President Obama, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and special interests have waged a battle against a program that helps low-income children who live just blocks from the White House. Passing the SOAR Act will right this grievous wrong."

The program, which allows low-income parents the opportunity to use vouchers and send their children to high-quality private schools, has yielded significant, positive results.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, the program yielded 91 percent graduation rates for students who used their scholarships - more than 30 points higher than the graduation rates for students in conventional public schools. More than 3,300 children have benefited from the program since its creation in 2004.

A poll released earlier this year demonstrated that more than 74 percent of District residents want Congress to reauthorize the program, and more than 8,000 residents have signed petitions urging the OSP's restoration.

"Parents across the country are watching Congress right now to see if their Members will do the right thing and stand courageously with children who only want a better future - or if they'll side with richly-funded special interest groups that place adults and the status quo above the needs of low-income families," Walden Ford said.

A companion bill in the U.S. Senate is sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Dianne Feinstein, and Lamar Alexander.

Virginia Walden Ford is the Executive Director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. She is an African-American single mother who almost single-handedly lobbied Congress to enact the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program after she secured a private scholarship for her son, William, who later went on to graduate and then serve our country in Iraq. Virginia is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and also speaks on behalf of the Foundation for Educational Choice. She was an advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. Interestingly, she’s from Little Rock, Arkansas and was in the second group of children to integrate Little Rock Central High School. [more...]

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