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Legislative Information

DC Voucher Program

(posted 6/28/11)
National Coalition for Public Education comments on proposed rule making by Department of Education on DC vouchers.

NABSE is a collaborator in this coalition. The Department of Education has issued a proposed rule that would call for data collection regarding the DC Voucher program. The National Coalition for Public Education is asking for additional data that would help to learn more about the program. [Read attached letter]

(posted 4/6/11)
On March 30th,2011, the United States House of Representatives voted 225 to 195 to offer federally-paid vouchers of $12,000 for middle and high school students and $8,000 for elementary students who wish to attend private and religious schools under an expanded District of Columbia Voucher program. Created in 2004 by the Bush administration, the DC "Opportunity Scholarship program" was set to expire with the graduation of current enrolled students.

This action by The House comes on the heels of a comprehensive report (March 29, 2011) by the Wisconsin Department of Public instruction that stated "Results from the first administration of statewide exams to students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) show lower academic achievement in choice schools than performance by students attending Milwaukee Public schools (MPS)." Further the failure of vouchers to make a significant difference in academic achievement was reported by the US Department' s Institute of Education Sciences evaluation of the DC program.

Click here for Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year
U.S. Department of Education
Institute of Education Sciences

(posted 1/19/10)
At the end of the initial five-year allocation(authorized in 2003),The DC Voucher Program initialed considerable discussion. The 2009 appropriations budget would have ended all funding for the program unless it was reauthorized by Congress and the local DC government. Senator Liebermann and colleagues introduced legislation to continue the program. That legislation failed.

In the end, the Obama administration proposed a compromise in the FY 2010 budget. Current students could remain enrolled until their graduation from that school. However the Program would end for all new applicants.

The following facts refer to the "Voucher" appropriations in the FY10 bill:
Omnibus fiscal 2010 appropriations (PL 111-117), CQ Weekly, p. 22; D.C. school vouchers (PL 108-199), 2003 Almanac, p. 2-46.

  • Official name: Opportunity Scholarship Program
  • Students enrolled: 1,319
  • Share of city’s public school enrollment: 2 percent
  • Students enrolled since 2004: more than 3,000
  • Average family income: $25,238
  • Maximum tuition grant: $7,500 a year
  • Income ceiling for eligibility: $40,793 for a family of four
  • Average reading advancement after three years of the program: 3.7 months
  • Average math advancement: no significant advancement
  • Participating students attending a school with tuition over $7,500: 22 percent
  • Participating students attending Catholic schools: 59 percent
  • Participating students attending other faith-based schools: 23 percent

SOURCES: Education Department, Washington Scholarship Fund

Source: CQ Weekly
The definitive source for news about Congress.
©2010 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(posted 3/13/09)
The omnibus bill was held up by one vote on Friday March 6th, as a result of the concern by some congresspersons over the "earmark "controversy. However the second most serious controversy surrounded the deletion of funding for the DC voucher system funded by the federal government under the DC School Choice Act which created the first private kindergarten-through-grade 12 school-choice program supported by federal funds. The Department of Education selected the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF) to operate the program. Two reports by the Government accountability office (GAO) and one from the Institute of Education Sciences (a US Department of Education organization) show little or no effects.

Highlighted findings from the IES report

After two years there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in general between students who were offered a DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and students who were not offered a scholarship. Overall, those in the treatment and control groups were performing at comparable levels in mathematics and reading.

The program had a positive impact on overall parent satisfaction and parent perceptions of school safety, but not on students' reports of satisfaction and safety.

Parents were more satisfied with their child's school and viewed the school as less dangerous if the child was offered a scholarship. Students had a different view of their schools than did their parents. Reports of dangerous incidents in school were comparable for students in the treatment and control groups Overall, student satisfaction was unaffected by the Program.

There were some impacts on selected groups of students, but adjustments for multiple comparisons indicate that these findings may be due to chance. There were no statistically significant impacts on the test scores of the high-priority subgroup of students who had previously attended schools designated as in need of improvement (SINI).

Highlights from the GAO reports (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02752.pdf)

  • "Accountability and internal control were inadequate."

  • "Federal tax dollars were spent on tuition for private schools that did not charge tuition vouchers were paid to schools that employed teachers who lacked bachelor's degrees: "at least 3 of 52 schools that participated that year indicated that at least half of their teachers did not have at least a bachelor's degree, and 6 schools indicated that about 10 to 20 percent of their teachers lacked at least a bachelor's degree."

  • "Some participating schools did not meet basic requirements to operate in the District. For example, a few had no certificate of occupancy on file with the District or had certificates that did not specify educational use."

  • "Parents were given incomplete and inaccurate information about the private schools their children attended."

  • "While students from schools in need of improvement had priority for receiving scholarships, for each year the program has operated, the percentage of students from schools in need of improvement who were offered scholarships has been smaller than the percentage of students in District public schools who attended such schools."

  • "Although most private schools in the District officially participated in the program, the schools varied widely in the number of openings available to scholarship students, and very few openings were available at the secondary level."