Majority of DC City Council Writes to Support Opportunity Scholarships

July 09, 2009

A majority of the DC City Council has written to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and DC Mayor Adrian Fenty urging their support for Opportunity Scholarships, which provide 1,700 low-income children in the District of Columbia with up to $7,500 to attend the school of their choice in the District of Columbia.

The future of this successful and popular program is at risk on two fronts. Earlier this spring, the Department of Education decided to deny over 200 children scholarships for this fall, despite the available funding. In addition, Congress voted to end the program completely after the 2009-2010 school year and may only permit existing students to continue, though even that is uncertain.

“The Archdiocese of Washington is grateful for the leadership of these seven council members on this issue,” said Jane Belford, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington. “They put politics aside and kids and families first. Clearly they understand how essential this program is to the futures of our city’s most at-risk children,” she added.

In their letter, the council members noted that more than 200 low-income DC families who had been awarded scholarships for the fall now are being denied those scholarships by the U.S. Department of Education. They wrote, “That approach is grossly unfair and completely injurious to the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the families involved….We believe we simply cannot turn our backs on these families because doing so will deny their children the quality education they deserve,” the letter continued.

This week the House and Senate Appropriations Committees voted against fully funding the Opportunity Scholarship Program for the 2010-11 school year and into the future, meaning no new students will be allowed to enter the program. Students currently in the program may be able to continue receiving scholarships through the 2010-11 school year, but their educational future is uncertain after that. They could be forced to leave their schools and return to DC public schools. For 86 percent of the children, whose average family income is just $24,000, that would be a school that is underperforming according to No Child Left Behind.

Of the more than 1,700 students who received Opportunity Scholarships this past year, 879 attended Catholic schools in the District. Visit www.DCOpportunityScholarship.org for more information.

Contact:
Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
301-853-4515
[email protected]