The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was created in 2004 with bi-partisan support due to the growing need for access to quality educational options for D.C. families. It is the first federal government initiative to provide scholarships for grades K-12 for low-income children in the District. Our program offers families the ability to enroll their children into schools that best fit their student's needs, particularly those who would otherwise attend schools identified as in need of improvement under section 1116 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
Originally established under the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003, the OSP is part of a three-sector approach that includes funding to better the District's public, public charter and non-public schools. In order to ensure financial backing would not be reduced for the continued improvement efforts of the District's public school system, the plan brought new funding to all three educational sectors. As a result, D.C. families now have a variety of educational options for their children.
The program was administered by the Washington Scholarship Fund from 2004 through May 2010. The D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation has served as the administrator of the program from May 2010 through present.
On the path towards continued growth and success, the OSP expanded to meet the growing needs of families. The OSP implemented a comprehensive case-management model to assist in applying for scholarships, as well as supporting families in making successful transitions to non-public schools. As a result, the OSP evolved into a hands-on program which has empowered families to take individual action in the education of their children. In addition, our staff work with families to meet application guidelines, research schools and make use of supplementary resources.
Studies of the program by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) have shown increases in parental satisfaction with the program, as well as evidence users were found to have higher high school graduation rates.
In April 2011, Congress passed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), to extend the program for five additional years beginning in the 2011-12 school year. The act reaffirmed the continued need to improve education in the district. Revitalizing the three-sector approach, funds were allocated to the District's public, public charter and non-public schools. Under the newly expanded program, scholarship caps increased from $7,500 in previous years up to $8,000 for grades K-8 and up to $12,000 for grades 9-12 beginning in the 2011-12 school year.