House Republicans Consider Effort to Revive D.C. Voucher Program

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Newly empowered Republicans may try to resurrect the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which pays for low-income children to attend private school in Washington, when they assume control of the House in January.

"It's definitely something that we're working on," said an aide to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees Washington. "This is a program that will definitely be looked at in the subcommittee in the next Congress."

Congress eliminated the program in 2009 when Sen. Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate whose children attend private school, slipped an amendment in a catchall spending bill, infuriating parents who claim the vouchers have improved performance and rescued students from one of the nation's worst public school systems.

House Republicans tried to reauthorize the program with a bill that Chaffetz co-sponsored. But the bill died with Republicans outnumbered by Democrats.

Critics of the voucher program, including teachers unions, say it draws money away from the public schools.

President Obama, whose two children also attend private school, agreed to extend the program in 2009 until currently enrolled students graduate.

A final report on the program, released in June by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, found that the graduation rate for students who were offered scholarships was 82 percent, compared with 70 percent for those not in the program.

Since the program began in 2004, more than 3,700 students, most of them black or Hispanic, have won scholarships which provide up to $7,500 in private-school tuition.

Even though Republicans will have the votes in the House next year to revive the program, they may not be able to get a bill through the Democratic-controlled Senate or Obama who wields the veto pen.