AFC Applauds Inclusion of DC OSP Reauthorization in Final FY 17 Budget Bill

Parents of K-12 children in Washington, D.C. were big winners as Congress completed work on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget bill. The bill reauthorizes the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) for three years and appropriates $45 million for the OSP, charter schools, and D.C. public schools. The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement today:

Statement from John Schilling, Chief Operating Officer of the American Federation for Children:“Washington, D.C. families are grateful to the Trump Administration and Congress for their support of the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The OSP, among the most studied of federal programs, has been an educational lifeline for children in low-income D.C. families since 2004. Parents are satisfied, children are succeeding, graduating from high school, and most go onto college. This is a federal program that works for kids. In addition to the Administration, AFC wishes to thank the OSP’s many congressional supporters including Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; House and Senate Oversight and Appropriations Committee Chairmen Jason Chaffetz, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Ron Johnson, and Thad Cochran; Education Committee Chairmen Virginia Foxx and Lamar Alexander; and longtime champions Rep. Dan Lipinski and Senator Dianne Feinstein. AFC also wishes to thank D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for her steadfast support of the federal three-sector initiative, which authorizes $180 million for K-12 education in the District over three years.”

Background on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program:The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is now in its 13th year serving the city’s most disadvantaged students. Nearly 6,600 children from low-income District families have been awarded scholarships since the program began in 2004-2005. More than 19,800 have applied for scholarships, and currently 1,244 students are enrolled. The average income for participating families is less than $22,000 per year and 97 percent of participating children are minority.

Recent data compiled by the program administrator shows a 2015-2016 graduation rate of 98 percent. 86 percent of these students were accepted into a 2-or-4 year college with 5 percent entering the military or technical school.

Much attention was given to the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) recent release of findings related to test scores of OSP students. As we have noted, these test scores are after one year in the program. Data from a meta-analysis of the participant effects of private school vouchers illustrates that the effect of vouchers on participating students’ academic achievement in bothreading and math tends to start out neutral or negative in year one and trends to positive by years two or three of the program. We know from the body of school choice research on the experimental effects on test scores that short term test scores may not be predictive of long term achievement or attainment. We also know from the previous OSP evaluation (2010) that 91 percent of children who used their opportunity scholarships graduated from high school, 21 percent higher than those who were offered, but did not receive a scholarship. Longer term studies, which look at the academic progress of participating students, attainment, college matriculation, as well as parent satisfaction, will provide the best information about program success.