House to vote on renewing DC school voucher program

WASHINGTON — A D.C. school voucher program that gives federal money to low-income students who want to leave public schools to attend private schools may be around for at least another five years.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted Friday to extend SOAR (Scholarships for Opportunity and Results). The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.

The American Federation for Children, the advocacy group founded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calls SOAR an “educational lifeline” for low-income families.

In a written statement, AFC Chairman John Schilling said the “vote sends a strong message that members recognize the success of the (Opportunity Scholarship Program) and the tremendous demand from D.C.’s parents.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton remains a fierce opponent. In a statement to the House panel, she said D.C. students already have “robust” school choices.

“Almost 50 percent of public school students attend charter schools, and 75 percent of public school students attend out-of-boundary schools that they have chosen,” said Norton.

The nation’s largest teachers’ group has opposed SOAR. A template letter to members of Congress from the National Education Association charged the SOAR program “is diverting funds from public to private schools at a time when sequester-level budget cuts are hurting students.”

The letter accuses Congress of leaving “essential federal programs like Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act severely underfunded.”

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