Secretary DeVos Joins Parents, Students, Members of Congress to Celebrate 15th Anniversary of DCOSP

Secretary DeVos Joins Parents, Students, Members of Congress to Celebrate 15th Anniversary of DCOSP

Calls on Congress to reauthorize and expand the program to benefit more students
October 23, 2019

WASHINGTON- Today, hundreds of parents, students, and education freedom advocates gathered at the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) and to call on Congress to act immediately on its reauthorization.
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“The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is proof that empowering parents and students with freedom to choose their education works,” said Secretary DeVos. “As Congress considers reauthorization of this program, its members should listen to the life-changing success stories of those who received scholarships. All students deserve the freedom to find the right fit.”

Since its enactment, DCOSP has helped more than 10,000 students in the District of Columbia find a school that best fits their needs. Parents and students who have benefitted from DCOSP recounted their education freedom success stories at today’s event.
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Michael White, a D.C. Opportunity Scholarship recipient who attends Cornerstone Schools, made the case for Education Freedom: “It is the fundamental belief that no matter what zip code you live in, no matter what street you live on, no matter where you are in your life, that you should have the ability to have a quality education and that your family should decide where exactly you go to school.”
Shaniya Vereene, a senior at Cornerstone, said of her experience with DCOSP, “The Opportunity Scholarship Program relieves my family and I of financial distress, and allows me to focus more on my education. Thanks to the OSP, I have a better education and more financial freedom.”

Ninety-four percent of D.C. parents who use the scholarships for their children are happy with their decision to pursue education freedom. Speaking about DCOSP, Deborah Ngongang, a mother whose four children benefited from the scholarship, explained, “I fight for this program because I know how much it means.” She spoke of her daughter’s experience, saying “She was accepted to three different schools, but I chose Emerson because it was a small school. And guess what? Somebody found her at Emerson doing a speech, and she is on the debate team…[and she goes to] law camp…She’s going to be a great lawyer; I can guarantee you that.”

Carmen Jean-Baptiste, another parent of DCOSP recipients, noted how important it is for parents and students to work to protect the program and encouraged students to make the most of their opportunity. “You all who are here, continue to fight, continue to take advantage of the education… The opportunity scholarship is here… to fulfill your dream… because you all are our future.”

Members of Congress also came to the Department to celebrate the success of DCOSP and encourage their colleagues to reauthorize the program. SOAR Act authorization of DCOSP expired Sept. 30, 2019. A continuing resolution that funds the program temporarily will expire Nov. 21, 2019.

Senator Ron Johnson, who reintroduced the SOAR Act this year and is leading the charge on reauthorization, said, “The reason we’re here trying to reauthorize [DCOSP], and, by the way, we’re introducing a permanent reauthorization…and I hope we can pass this quickly and unanimously, so that no child in America, and certainly no child in D.C. ever has the devastating realization that they don’t have the freedom and opportunity to choose a school that works for them.”

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, added, “We know education choice is powerful. Families should have the opportunity to make informed decisions that work for them and their individual needs rather than be forced to accept a one-size-fits-all government mandate. The DCOSP shows that scholarships will work, and that choice will work.”

Congressman Andy Harris addressed students, “As you know, where you go to school makes a big difference. This program means wherever you call home, you are eligible to go to a school where you will succeed, where you will have a chance to be whatever you want to be, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
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To counter critics of the program, Congressman Ralph Norman asked, “What’s wrong with choice? If you’ve got money, you can pay for your child to get tutored, you can pay for your child to go to a private school, you can pay for your child to be in an establishment zip code here in Washington, D.C. But what about those who can’t afford it? That’s who we want to serve, everybody.”
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D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program participants attend a 15th anniversary celebration at the Department of Education.

Video of the event can be found here.

To read Secretary DeVos’ remarks, click here.