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School Choice & Charters

House of Representatives Passes D.C. Voucher Reauthorization Bill

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 29, 2016 1 min read
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The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill reauthorizing a private school tuition voucher program in the District of Columbia on Friday.

House members voted to approve H.R. 4901, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act, by a vote of 224-181. Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and sent it to the full House floor. The Opportunity Scholarships Program currently provides scholarships to about 1,250 low-income students in the district to attend private schools. It’s been around since the 2004-05 school year.

Last month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, and eight D.C. Council members sent a letter to Congress last month supporting SOAR reauthorization because of the funding structure SOAR provides for District of Columbia Public Schools and D.C. charter schools, as well as the Opportunity Scholarships Program. However, President Barack Obama’s administration has expressed opposition to Chaffetz’s bill.

Since its beginning, the voucher program has provided scholarships to about 6,400 students in D.C. It’s been a controversial program in the federal government for some time. It was a long-time favorite of former Speaker of the House John Boehner, and current House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has also championed the program. In fact, last fall Congress also voted to reauthorize the program.

But the Obama administration has consistently questioned whether it ultimately leads to better academic results for students, and has tried to set a date for the program to expire. That hasn’t gone over well with the GOP-led Congress.

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