Obama Budget Provides No New Funding for DC Opportunity Scholarships

Highly successful program serves District children from low-income families, improves educational outcomes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 11, 2013) – President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal provides no new scholarship funding for the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), despite the president having signed legislation in 2011 that reauthorized the program for five years. The president’s budget only includes funding for the statutorily required evaluation and program administration.

The OSP has been an educational lifeline for thousands of children from low-income District families since the 2004-2005 school year. The average family income is less than $24,000 per year and nearly 100 percent of this year’s scholarship recipients would otherwise be zoned for a school in need of improvement.

“The Obama Administration is continuing its effort to phase out a successful program that gives children in low-income D.C. families access to a quality education,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel for the Federation. “The Department of Education and the OSP administrator should be making every effort to use available funds to give more eligible children opportunity scholarships. These kids should not have to remain trapped in schools that do not work for them when another viable option exists right now – and no child should be forced to stay in a school that does not meet their needs simply because of their family’s income.”

According to last federal evaluation of the program in 2010, 91 percent of children who used their D.C. opportunity scholarships graduated from high school – 21 percent more than those who sought but did not receive a scholarship and 30 percent higher than D.C. public schools. Subsequent research by the program administrator for 2010 and 2011 showed that 94 percent of scholarship students graduated and 89 percent of those students enrolled in college.

Since its inception, more than 11,000 families have applied to participate in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and more than 6000 have been fortunate enough to get a scholarship.

While funding exists for approximately 2,000 children, this year’s program had just under 1,600 students participating because of implementation challenges between the Department of Education and the program administrator. The program is carrying over funds each year that supporters believe should be used to provide more scholarships for eligible children. The application period for the 2013-2014 school year recently closed and was the shortest in the program’s eight-year history. Application numbers have not yet been released.