Friday, April 12, 2013

Obama Budget Excludes New Funding for Successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program

President Obama announced his Fiscal Year 2014 budget this week, and unfortunately did not provide any new scholarship funding for the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), despite having signed legislation in 2011 that reauthorized the program for five years.  The president's budget only includes funding for the statutorily required evaluation and program administration.

If you follow AFC’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter, you have seen countless stories posted about the success stories of this program.  Since its beginning during the 2004-05 school year, The OSP has helped thousands of children from low-income District families receive the education they deserve.  (Read about some the program’s success stories here, here, and here). 

Since its inception, more than 11,000 families have applied to participate in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and more than 6000 have been fortunate enough to get a scholarship.   

It is despicable that we are not doing more to ensure each and every child has access to the best education for their needs.  Kids should not have to remain trapped in schools that do not work for them when another viable option exists right now - and no child should be forced to stay in a school that does not meet their needs simply because of their family's income. 

Accordingto last federal evaluation of the program in 2010, 91 percent of children who used their D.C. opportunity scholarships graduated from high school - 21 percent more than those who sought but did not receive a scholarship and 30 percent higher than D.C. public schools.  Subsequent research by the program administrator for 2010 and 2011 showed that 94 percent of scholarship students graduated and 89 percent of those students enrolled in college.

Unfortunately, the future of the OSP – a program that has proven its ability to deliver real results for students trapped in schools that do not work for their needs – is in jeopardy.  

While funding exists for approximately 2,000 children, this year's program had just under 1,600 students participating because of implementation challenges between the Department of Education and the program administrator.  The program is carrying over funds each year that supporters believe should be used to provide more scholarships for eligible children.   

What is most interesting is that the president has gone on the record reiterating the need to provide low-income students with the access to a better tomorrow.   

Duringa speech in Decatur, Georgia in February, President Obama said “the size of your paycheck shouldn’t determine your child’s future.”   We agree full-heartedly.  Each child – no matter their family’s income or their zip code – should be entitled to the same opportunities to succeed.  So why restrict a program that is delivering real results for some of the poorest students in our nation’s capital? 

A better tomorrow starts with a quality education.  We cannot continue to sit back and wait for poor-performing schools to improve.  We must deliver all children the educational options necessary to open the door to greater opportunities tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. AFC is right, as usual, about this issue. While, in general, we do not have money available for new programs, the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is not an example of program spending we should be cutting; it should be fully funded at its current authorized level, and programs like it should be expanded when and where these can possibly be afforded. This blog post's moral bears repeating: no student should have a lesser education.