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Reason Foundation

DC School Choice

Geoffrey Segal
February 3, 2004, 7:37pm

It's official! COMPETITION OPEN TO SELECT ORGANIZATION TO RUN FIRST FEDERALLY FUNDED OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM Secretary of Education, D.C. Mayor Sign Memorandum of Understanding on D.C. School Choice Incentive Program U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced today the opening of the competition that will select a group to manage the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program. The program will provide thousands of low-income D.C. parents with scholarships for their children to attend the school of their choice. The notice of the competition, printed in today's Federal Register, details the requirements that applicants must follow in applying to manage the program and the criteria that the department will use in selecting the organization. The Federal Register notice follows the signing earlier this week of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the secretary and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams on the first federally funded opportunity scholarship program. The MOU describes the officials and offices within the department and the D.C. government that will have lead responsibility for implementation of the program, and the issues and areas on which the department and the D.C. government will exchange information. The department and the D.C. government, through the Office of the Mayor, have been working collaboratively to ensure the successful launch of the program and will act as partners in overseeing the initiative. "This new, unprecedented initiative gives economically disadvantaged parents in D.C. more options to educate their children," Paige said. "No longer will some of these parents have to be dissatisfied and feel disaffected by the lack of teaching and learning that their child may be receiving in a school that is underperforming. Educational choice is important for two reasons. First, it extends civil rights and social justice. Second, it enhances school effectiveness. Once parents are given choices, the calls for change can no longer go unheeded. Every child in this country deserves a quality education." "I think that once this program has proven its merits, most will agree that this sincere effort to level the playing field for economically disadvantaged parents and students in the nation's capital was an effort worth fighting for," Williams said. The $14 million D.C. School Choice initiative, expected to begin this fall, will showcase a five-year, federally funded demonstration program that will provide approximately 2,000 low-income District children grants of up to $7,500 to attend parochial or private schools. At the department, the Office of Innovation and Improvement will have the lead responsibility for implementing the program and for carrying out cooperative activities with D.C. government. In addition, the department's Institute of Education Sciences will have the lead responsibility for implementing the evaluation of the effectiveness of the program, including cooperative activities with the D.C. government that are related to that evaluation. "Our task now is to roll up our sleeves and ensure this program gets off the ground quickly," added Paige. "It will require our best efforts, bipartisan cooperation and support within and outside the nation's capital. The mayor and I are prepared to do everything possible to make this program work. A good, wise, just and compassionate country makes certain that educational opportunities are available for all of its citizens -- regardless of economic circumstance, race or zip code. No child can be left behind." For more information about the program, visit; for more on the Federal Register notice, visit.


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