The Corner

The Fight Is Still on for D.C. Schoolchildren

Arne Duncan, Secretary

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan,

                We are following up on our letter dated March 17, 2009, asking that you refrain from making any administrative rules or policies that would disrupt the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) or prevent the grantee from accepting applications and students for the 2009-2010 school year. Prior to a response to our inquiry, we were disappointed to learn that you subsequently made the choice not to allow new students to enroll in the program. 

                By preventing new scholarships from being awarded, you are effectively ending a program before Congress has had the opportunity to consider reauthorizing it.   Therefore, we respectfully request that you consider reversing your decision.

                As we noted in our letter to you, the future of the OSP is presently under consideration by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  We will be holding hearings on the program in May, and Majority Leader Reid has promised floor time to consider a reauthorization proposal.  We respectfully request that you refrain from implementing significant changes to the program until we have an opportunity to review the program’s results, hold public hearings, and have a thoughtful debate about the future of the program.               

                Your recent decision to suspend the program for new entrants will hurt families who are searching for other options for their children.   We understand that many of these parents had been notified that they would, in fact, receive scholarships for their children.  Now that the DC Public School’s out of boundary process has been completed and the majority of public charter school deadlines have passed for the 2009-2010 school year, the suspension decision will leave these families with little or no opportunity to explore viable alternatives.

                We will continue to support the D.C. Public School System in its efforts to improve outcomes for all students.  However, in the interim, we must continue to provide options such as the OSP and provide families real choices in ensuring access to a quality education for their children. 

                We thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

                                                                                                Sincerely,

Joseph I. Lieberman      

Susan M. Collins                                                                              

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