Lipinski Helps Lead Passage of School Choice Bill to Help Students Succeed
Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) voted for the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, H.R. 471, which will continue a successful program to provide low-income students at failing public schools in Washington, D.C., with scholarship money to attend private schools. The measure reauthorizes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which studies show has had a strong positive impact on students’ graduation rates and reading scores, giving them a chance at a better life.
“I was happy to co-sponsor and help lead the passage of the SOAR Act today, because in doing so we took advantage of perhaps the only chance we will have in this Congress to do something we all want to do – provide children with an opportunity they otherwise would not have to get a better education and to have a better future,” Congressman Lipinski said. “The improved graduation rates already produced by the Opportunity Scholarship Program are not just abstract numbers. They mean real opportunities for a better life for kids who likely would not otherwise get them. Ask the kids, or ask the parents what a difference these scholarships can make. Kids like Derrick Carter and Maurice Holton, Jr., who I met at St. Thomas More Academy, along with Derrick’s father and Maurice’s grandmother. The evidence is clear and compelling that the Opportunity Scholarship Program is making a profoundly positive contribution to the lives of children, their families, and their communities.”
The graduation rate for students who received and used Opportunity Scholarships is 21 percentage points higher than for those who applied for a scholarship but did not receive one, according to The Department of Education’s “Final Evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.” Among girls the increase was even higher, at 28 percentage points. In a world where a college education is a prerequisite for many good-paying jobs, a high school diploma is critical. Graduating high school also confers many long-term benefits on its own, as shown by the fact that the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma is close to 50 percent higher than for those with a diploma.
Recent testimony by Dr. Patrick J. Wolf, the principal investigator for the Department’s report, refutes misleading claims made by OSP critics. Dr. Wolf stated: “[T]he D.C. OSP has accomplished what few educational interventions can claim: It markedly improved important education outcomes for low-income inner-city students.” He also stated that in addition to sharply increasing graduation rates, “the evidence is conclusive” the program has improved reading scores and that claims to the contrary “fly in the face of a wealth of scientific evidence.”
Congressman Lipinski is a strong supporter of giving all parents choices to ensure their children have the opportunity to get a good education. The funding authorized by the SOAR Act will go to help all Washington, D.C., students, and would be divided equally between the Opportunity Scholarship Program, public schools, and public charter schools.
“Proven and successful programs like the OSP empower parents, giving them the opportunity to ‘vote with their feet’ by selecting the school that works best for their children,” Congressman Lipinski said. “That does not mean that this is the sole solution to improving America’s educational system. We must invest in public education, as this bill does, and work to improve local public schools across the country, so that every child has access to a good education and a chance to succeed. At the same time, we should be willing to innovate and to embrace proven programs, always bearing in mind that what is most important is to do what is right for our kids. I think we can all agree that a child shouldn’t have to attend schools that fail to meet reasonable standards just because of where she lives. She should have the same chance to live up to her full potential as anyone else. Today, with this vote, we took a step toward making sure every kid has that chance.”
(March 30, 2011)
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