The Facts about School Choice Support the Boehner/Lieberman Scholarship Proposal

by Lindsey Burke

As Kathryn noted yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Joseph Lieberman are pushing to restore the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They recently announced that they will be introducing the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has been on life support ever since Congress — bowing to pressure from special-interest groups — blocked new students from receiving scholarships.

There is solid evidence to support the push for increased school-choice options. At a panel convened by the Heritage Foundation as part of National School Choice Week, Patrick Wolf, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas outlined the findings.

One of the most important impacts of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has been its ability to increase graduation rates — by 21 percentage points. Wolf translated that into very real terms: This equates to 180 kids not graduating because they didn’t receive scholarships. And these are the children most in need: 44 percent of scholarship students are from schools designated in need of improvement, and 17 percent have a diagnosed disability. The average family income for children in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program is slightly more than $17,300.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has increased the reading scores of participating students and has significantly increased graduation rates. Moreover, parents are happier and children are safer. This evidence has become so overwhelming that many skeptics have become believers in school choice.

Wolf noted that two school-choice skeptics, Clive Belfield and Henry Levin, conducted a meta-analysis of 200 studies on school choice. Their conclusion? There is “reasonably consistent evidence of a link between competition (choice) and education quality. Increased competition and higher educational quality are positively correlated.”

Increased academic achievement, higher graduation rates, increased student safety, and increased parental satisfaction. School choice works, and in the case of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, is helping some of the country’s neediest children.

As Speaker Boehner demonstrated by inviting scholarship students and advocates to his State of the Union box, his top priority is the well-being of children and the future of education in America.

Lindsey Burke is a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

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