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Congress weighs funding for D.C. school vouchers

by Andrea Noble
The Washington Times
May 14, 2015

Shirley-Ann Tomdio, a junior at George Washington University studying to be an orthopedic surgeon, ticked off a list of accomplishments that would make any parent proud.

The daughter of Cameroonian immigrants, Ms. Tomdio earned honors before graduating from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, was an editor of her school’s literary magazine, won awards on the track team and serves as a leader of a women’s empowerment group.

Speaking about her accomplishments before a panel of federal lawmakers Thursday in the auditorium of Archbishop Carroll High School, Ms. Tomdio credited her successes to her parents’ perseverance, as well as a school voucher program that made it possible for her to attend to the private high school.

“The scholarship has allowed me to build a strong foundation for myself,” she said. “As the oldest, I have to set an example for my siblings and most importantly, myself.”

Congress is gearing up to reauthorize funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that aided Ms. Tomdio — a school voucher program that provides disadvantaged families with money to subsidize their children’s enrollment at private schools in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget includes cuts to the program.

A GOP-controlled Congress established the federal voucher program in 2004, which has awarded stipends of up to $12,572 per student to send more than 6,000 D.C. children to private schools.

But since its establishment, the program has been a point of political contention, with critics questioning its impact on student achievement and calling on the government to focus resources on public schools.

Program supporters say it gives families a choice outside a troubled public school system.

“Despite spending more per student than any jurisdiction in the country, D.C. Public Schools continue to struggle when it comes to educating students,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican,

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Newswire: April 28, 2015

Vol. 17, No. 17

CHOICE IS POWER. This editor of Newswire had the pleasure to sit down with a mom yesterday to talk about her son’s education and the impact making a choice has had on his life. Barbara left D.C. in the mid-90s to escape the violence and chose to move to suburban Virginia to give her kids a fighting chance. Her youngest son was struggling in a big suburban school, where the achievement gap is only growing among white and black students. She decided to move back to D.C. recently because she has witnessed how school choice has changed her community for the better, and now her son is thriving and has aspirations for college. Congress passed the controversial D.C. School Reform Act in 1996 to bring dramatic change to the nation’s capital and #edreform has done just that. Barbara said that “people aren’t inherently bad, but they make bad decisions when they have no choice in the matter.” She noted the people in her community haven’t changed since the mid-90s, but school choice has empowered them to make better decisions and aspire for something greater. The nation is watching Baltimore clean up from yesterday’s destruction caused in large part by young schoolchildren that have no choice in a city where violence looks a lot like D.C. did twenty years ago. Meanwhile, advocates continue to battle the status quo in Annapolis who believe “small progress” and a political win are more important than taking the bold and controversial steps as D.C. once did to empower parents in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

FUNDING FIASCOS. In Connecticut, lawmakers are toying with children’s futures by eliminating funding for two already approved charter schools, Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport and Stamford Charter School for Excellence. Dr. Steve

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DC Vouchers: Success on All Fronts

The numbers are in from the 2012-13 school year, and parents with students in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program are overwhelmingly satisfied with schools their children attend, as well as their children’s academic progress.

It’s not hard to see why parents are happy, with 97% of DC OSP students graduating from high school and 91% enrolling at a 2-or-4 year college.

Please see here for the complete Parental Satisfaction & Program Summary for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program 2012-2013.

For more information on school choice, check out Facts on School Choice and the Parent Power Index.

Passions High Around School Voucher Bill

by Mark Binker
WRAL
May 21, 2013

In a packed room, the House Education Committee heard Tuesday from supporters and opponents of a plan to give taxpayer-funded scholarships for low income students that attend private schools.

The crowd precluded any committee debate or a vote on the bill, as legislators used the limited time to hear from the public – those in favor and against the Opportunity Scholarship Act

The committee did roll out a new version of the bill and an accompanying summary that explains the bill.

“The bill before you, in reality, will not help the students it is intended to help,” Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told the committee. She focused her comments on the fact that private schools do not have to report student test results and performance in the same way public schools do.

“If a grading scale of A-through-F is good for public schools, then it should be good for private schools,” she said. How else, she asked, would parents know if the private school they are choosing actually offers a better education than their current public school.

Proponents of the bill said that voucher programs in other states have helped improve student test scores.

“I’m struck by the amount of opposition to something some people have never seen working in progress,” said Jeanne Allen is the Founder and President of The Center for Education Reform.

The committee is expected to debate and vote on the bill next week.

Improving American Education With School Choice

Download or print your PDF copy of Improving American Education With School Choice

Voucher Talk Resumes

“Tennessee planning for school vouchers nears final stages”
by Richard Locker
Commercial Appeal
October 1, 2012

A special commission appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam is about to begin drafting its final recommendations on how a Tennessee school-voucher program would operate, including who would be eligible for taxpayer dollars for private school tuition.

The voucher issue returns to the state legislature in January after a year’s hiatus. The state Senate narrowly approved a voucher bill in 2011, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, that allowed students whose family incomes were low enough to qualify them for free or discounted school lunches to take half the taxpayer money spent per-pupil in their school district to pay private school tuition.

House leaders were more reluctant to open a political battle over vouchers and just before the 2012 session opened, Haslam asked lawmakers to stand down and let him appoint a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations this fall for the 2013 legislature to consider.

He said Tennessee needed time for the major changes in state education policy to get up and running before embarking on another. The earlier changes included the end of collective bargaining by teachers, major changes to teacher tenure and performance evaluations, and higher standards for a revised core curriculum for K-12, plus a shift from enrollment-based funding for higher education to performance-based funding.

The “Governor’s Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships” held its fourth meeting Wednesday and although differences among its members continue, its chairman, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, made it clear that the panel’s charge from the governor is not to debate whether to have a voucher program but rather how a program should operate — its legal parameters — if lawmakers create one.

Key issues include when to launch a program; whether to put family-income limits on participation; whether to limit

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DC Opportunity Scholarships In Danger Again

The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) is once again on the chopping block as President Obama has allocated zero funds to the program in his proposed 2013 federal budget. DC OSP, a voucher program for low-income families in the District, has struggled to exist since the President took office in 2009, even though data shows that students participating in the program are gaining 3.1 months of additional learning in reading than students in conventional public schools.

Last year, the President reached a budget deal with Congress to reauthorize DC OSP. The funds are part of a three-sector approach to funding education in the District, distributing $60 million over five years to DC Public Schools, DC charter schools, and this voucher program.

It appears that school choice advocates such as OSP champions Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) breathed a sigh of relief too soon after last year’s agreement was finalized. The Administration is claiming that there are enough funds for students currently in the program. This would mean that no new students would be allowed to participate, a tactic the President has tried in the past. President Obama once said he would support programs that work. DC OSP not only works for the students participating (as the research shows), but also has strong parent satisfaction and support from the community, as well as bi-partisan support in Congress.

Do your part by contacting your Senator and House Representative to show support for the continuation of this proven option for families in our nation’s capital.

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