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House Oversight Committee Reauthorizes D.C. Voucher Program

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a reauthorization of the voucher program for students in the District of Columbia on Thursday.

H.R. 4901, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would reauthorize the D.C. voucher program for five years. The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides vouchers to about 1,250 low-income students in the District this school year. It's the only federally supported voucher program in the country. 

The committee approved H.R. 4901 by voice vote, according to a press release from the committee, and reported the bill to the full House of Representatives. 

During a press conference Thursday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the voucher program "has helped thousands of kids get a quality education." Since the 2004-05 school year, according to official program statistics, nearly 6,400 have received scholarships through the program.

"When we give more families a choice, more students succeed. It's just that simple," Ryan said Thursday.

The D.C. voucher program has been a reliably controversial K-12 issue in Washington for some time. During the most recent federal budget deal for fiscal 2016, funding for the vouchers was not included. Last fall, when it was a top priority for former Speaker of the House John Boehner, the House of Representatives voted to approve a reauthorization of the voucher program.

Studies of the voucher program have revealed mixed results. President Barack Obama's administration in the past has tried to sunset the program, but has run into resistance from members of Congress. 

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