This bill would prohibit the Dept. of Education from limiting the number of eligible students receiving District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) scholarships while reauthorizing the program through 2021. It would be reformed so as to focus on serving students at the lowest performing DC elementary and secondary schools. The Dept. of Education would also be blocked from preventing otherwise eligible students from participating because of:
The type of school the student previously attended;
Whether or not the individual previously received the scholarship or participated in OSP, or was a member of the control group used by the Institute of Education Sciences to carry out previous OSP evaluations.
Priorities for the award of scholarships to eligible students would be modified to give priority to students who:
In the preceding school year attended a school identified as a low-achieving school to the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE);
Certain students regardless of whether they have attended a private school.
OSP-participating schools must:
Conduct criminal background checks on school employees who have direct and unsupervised interactions with students;
Comply with all requests for data and information regarding certain reporting requirements.
Private schools that are participating in OSP must be accredited or in the process of seeking accreditation.
The Dept. of Education must make OSP funds available to eligible entities receiving a grant for administrative expenses and parental education and assistance, including a streamlining of the application process.
Previously unobligated OSP funds must be used to award new scholarships to students. The Dept. of Education may withhold specified OSP funds provided to the DC Mayor for DC public and charter schools for noncompliance with SOAR requirements.
Funds made available to support DC charter schools could be directed to the OSSE, which may transfer them to subgrantees that are:
Specific DC public charter schools in good standing or networks of such schools;
DC-based non-profit organizations with experience in successfully providing support or assistance to such schools or networks.
The Dept. of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) would be required to a replace the requirement for a grade appropriate, national norm-referenced standardized test with a test used by DC public schools for students using an opportunity scholarship. The testing would occur in grades three through eight, in addition to one high school grade. The test wouldn’t assess OSP success in increasing parental involvement in their student’s education, but would include the following:
A comparison of the academic achievement of participating students to those students with similar backgrounds in DC public schools;
A comparison of the college enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates of students who participated in the program after winning a lottery with those who didn’t and were in a control group;
An assessment of student academic achievement at participating schools in which 85 percent of the total number of students enrolled at the school receive and use an opportunity scholarship.