The month of March closed with a victorious week for schoolchildren and families across the nation. School choice bills passed in both Washington, D.C., and in Indiana to expand educational options for students.
In Washington, the SOAR Act sailed through the House on a 225–195 vote, reauthorizing and expanding the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which has been under attack by the Obama Administration for the last two years. In Indiana, legislation that has been cited as the “broadest” voucher expansion bill in the country similarly won hands-down in the Indiana House.
Leaders in both capitals hailed the victories. In Washington, House Education Committee chairman John Kline (R–MN) said last Wednesday:
Today’s vote is a victory for disadvantaged students throughout our nation’s capital. Over the last seven years, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has placed a quality education within reach of students previously trapped in underperforming schools. This program has engaged parents, motivated children, and helped the dream of a diploma become a reality for thousands of D.C. students.
In a similar vein, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma noted:
This is about promoting opportunity, focused tightly on those that have no choice today. … I’m here to give parents—especially parents without the means—opportunities for their children.”
The SOAR Act not only restores the DCOSP—which provides scholarships to low-income students in D.C.—it also expands the DCOSP to allow more students to receive scholarships.
Indiana’s legislation would provide families with a portion of their children’s public school funding to use on their choice of private schools. The amount of money families receive would be based on income levels. Reports the Indianapolis Star:
A student whose family’s income equals 100 percent of the threshold to qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches would get 90 percent of that money. For a student whose family’s income equals 150 percent of that threshold, the student would get 50 percent of the money.
While Indiana’s voucher bill is expected to pass the state Senate, DCOSP’s fate in the U.S. Senate is unknown. Nor will the DCOSP get support from the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, President Obama has yet to understand the benefit of this scholarship program.
That perspective “puts you on the wrong side of history,” says commentator Juan Williams in Heritage’s film Let Me Rise.
Today, from D.C. to Indiana, the rallying cry of parents and students for school choice is being heard by their leaders. And it’s not stopping there. As Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor and supporter of DCOSP, stated:
We have the opportunity in Indiana today for this state to be leading the change across the rest of the nation.