The White House said Wednesday it won’t fight a House Republican effort to reauthorize a school choice program for the District of Columbia.
The bill, known as the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, will be voted on by the House Thursday.
“While the administration continues to strongly oppose the private school vouchers program within this legislation, known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the administration will continue to use available SOAR Act funds to support students returning to the program until they complete school, so that their education is not disrupted,” the Office of Management and Budget said.
The White House stopped short of issuing a veto threat. But the administration made clear its distaste for the voucher program, which President Obama has tried to kill several times. The measure, a priority of former Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, provides money for some students in D.C. to attend private school.
“Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that D.C. vouchers have not yielded statistically significant improvements in student achievement by scholarship recipients compared to other students not receiving vouchers,” the White House said.
The administration also disagrees with a proposal to extend the voucher program to students already attending private schools,” thereby replacing existing private resources with public ones.”
“As a matter of public policy, the administration remains focused on the changes needed to make the greatest impact on student outcomes in the nation’s public education system,” OMB said. “Instead of using federal resources to support a handful of students in private schools, the federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students.”
Republicans say the measure forced Mr. Obama to choose between teachers’ unions opposed to vouchers and Democratic D.C. officials such as Mayor Muriel Bowser who favor the legislation.
The legislation also received a boost from Archbishop George Lucas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. They urged legislators in a letter to support the measure, saying vouchers have been “an educational lifeline for nearly 6,400 children from low-income families since it began in the 2004-2005 school year.”
“The great success of the program is clearly demonstrated by its strong educational outcomes and parental satisfaction with the program,” wrote Cardinal Wuerl and Archbishop Lucas. “The Catholic Church unequivocally teaches that parents have the right and responsibility to serve as the primary educators of their children. To assist them in this sacred duty … the state has a fundamental obligation to support parents in fulfilling such a right.”