A House committee voted Friday to continue a school voucher program for poor children in the District of Columbia, signaling Republicans’ intent to follow through on President Donald Trump’s promise to expand school choice throughout the country.
The program, known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, provides federally funded scholarships to low-income families in the nation’s capital. The scholarships enable them to take their children out of a failing public school and send them to a private school of their choice.
The scholarship program currently serves more than 1,200 students each year, but would be able to expand under the legislation before Congress.
“Public schools in D.C. have struggled for decades, with some of the worst academic outcomes in the nation,” Lindsey Burke, an education policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, said. “While there have been some improvements recently, kids in the scholarship program have gotten an immediate exit pass to better options that fit their unique learning needs.”
“This is a great first step to securing a program that had been under constant threat of defunding under the Obama administration. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has been a lifeline for poor children living in the nation’s capital,” Burke said.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a voice vote Friday morning, advanced the bill to the full House, despite continuing opposition from many Democrats.
Three attempts to amend the bill by committee Democrats failed by votes along party lines.
During the Obama administration, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program faced an uncertain future because it was opposed by teachers’ unions, which pressured Democrats. On multiple occasions, the administration attempted to defund it.