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D.C. School Vouchers Left Out of Federal Budget Deal

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Although education spending as a whole got a $1.2 billion boost in a federal budget deal announced Wednesday, one small but high-profile program has been left out: Washington D.C.'s school vouchers.

Reauthorization of the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), which creates a limited number of vouchers for students living in the District of Columbia, was not included in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this week—although funding for the program this coming year was. 

"Failure to reauthorize the SOAR Act jeopardizes the future of DC's trajectory of expanding parent choice, which has undoubtedly contributed to the overall improvement of the quality of education in our nation's capital," said Jeanne Allen, Founder and President Emeritus of the Center for Education Reform, in a statement.

Recently departed House Speaker John Boehner was a champion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and the House signed off on reauthorizing SOAR earlier this fall even though it wasn't up for renewal this year.

Although very small compared to many state programs, D.C.'s 11-year-old voucher program has long been a proverbial political football in Congress (as my colleague Alyson Klein wrote in October), a status it will likely keep as supporters try to get the program reauthorized in the New Year. While Opportunity Scholarships are a darling of many congressional Republicans, the Obama Administration has tried to sunset the program.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post's headline said funding for the SOAR Act and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was left out of the federal budget deal. Funding through this year was included in the omnibus spending bill, but reauthorization language was not.]


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