Boehner announces deal to expand District school voucher plan

The Obama administration has agreed to implement a renewal and expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced Monday.

The private school voucher initiative in the nation’s capital is a top priority of Boehner’s, and the agreement comes after the Speaker and Lieberman complained that President Obama’s decision to zero out funding for the program in his latest budget contradicted a law he signed in 2011. Boehner had successfully attached legislation extending and expanding the scholarships to a government funding accord last year.

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“For eight years, this scholarship program has empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children,” Boehner said in a statement. “Thousands of families have taken advantage of this scholarship program to give their children an opportunity to succeed in life, and there’s strong evidence that it’s both effective and cost-effective. I’m pleased that an agreement has been reached to expand the program, consistent with the law already on the books.”

The program provides funding for low-income parents to send their children to private or parochial schools. Under the agreement Boehner announced, there will be no cap on enrollment, and the program will remain open to both new and current applicants.

A former chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Boehner identified the Washington program as a personal priority from the time he became Speaker.

Boehner and Lieberman met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the program in May.

Lieberman said the scholarships, which supporters refer to as “school choice,” provide a “lifeline for many needy children.”