Archdiocese of Washington Applauds House Passage of Legislation to Reauthorize Scholarship Program for Low Income Students in District of Columbia
Friday, April 29, 2016
WASHINGTON – The Archdiocese of Washington applauds the passage today of H.R. 4901, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act (SOAR Act) in a vote of 223-181. The bill, introduced earlier this month by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) reauthorizes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program through FY2021.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is a popular and effective program that benefits all families with students in public, charter and private schools in Washington, D.C. Since it began in the 2004-2005 school year, Opportunity Scholarships have provided a quality private-school education to nearly 6,400 disadvantaged children within the District of Columbia. The majority of children who are recipients of Opportunity Scholarships come from single-parent families with an average household income of about $22,000 per year. Nearly half of the children enrolled in the program live in Wards 7 and 8 of the nation’s capital, the most economically challenged areas, and 97 percent of the children who receive the scholarships are African-American or Hispanic. About 87 percent of the children come from zones with public schools classified as “in need of improvement.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington co-signed a letter of support for the passage of H.R. 4901 with Archbishop George J. Lucas of the archdiocese of Omaha, the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In the letter, the bishops stated their support for the inclusion of language in the legislation that expands background checks for employees who have direct and unsupervised interaction with students, as well as improved accreditation requirements for the schools participating in the program, citing that such measures have been implemented by Catholic schools and the expansion of these requirements would help to ensure that all schools provide a safe and effective learning environment.
The reauthorization of the SOAR Act benefits all children in the District of Columbia, as it includes $60 million to be evenly divided among public schools, charter schools and scholarships for low-income families to use at non-public schools. Reauthorization of the scholarship program would mean parents in the nation’s capital would continue to have the option of selecting a school that best fits the educational needs of their children.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.
Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou