- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The best message from Tuesday’s State of the Union address came from students sitting in the speaker’s box. Three recipients of D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, which the Obama administration has been euthanizing, attended the speech to ask for the program’s reauthorization. Yesterday, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Independent, introduced legislation to give a new lifeline to them and other needy, highly motivated students.

Lesly Alvarez, an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart School in Northwest D.C., said, “The main contributor for me to have a bright future and a successful one is the OSP [Opportunity Scholarship Program],” according to National Review Online. “If the OSP is to be cancelled, that would leave a lot of children without the chance to receive a great education.” Multiple studies show she’s right. Scholarships improve high-school graduation rates, and the Education Department reported, “The D.C. voucher program has proven to be the most effective education policy evaluated by the federal government’s official education research arm so far.”

The Obama administration, however, is in hock to teacher unions that despise anything that busts the public-school monopoly. The administration revoked scholarships from 216 students who had been promised them and worked to bar new awards. For all of the president’s words about rewarding educational excellence, he has gone out of his way to squelch it. Mr. Boehner and Mr. Lieberman not only would re-start the program, but improve it. Their SOAR (Scholarships for Opportunity and Results) Act would increase the scholarship amount, increase requirements for financial accountability, provide for extra tutoring assistance and pay for continuing, outside evaluations.

The Republican House majority should approve SOAR quickly. In the Senate, 46 of 47 Republicans are probable supporters (Olympia Snowe of Maine is wavering), while Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California, Virginia’s Mark Warner and Florida’s Bill Nelson backed it before. If they hold firm, the bill would be one senator short of a 51-vote majority.

“I am optimistic we can pass it this year,” Mr. Lieberman told The Washington Times, while calling educational choice “the civil rights issue of today.” For under $20 million a year, important educational opportunities can be offered to 1,700 students in the nation’s capital. If President Obama really wants to “invest” in effective education, this is an obvious place to start.