WATCH: Betsy DeVos Defends School Choice and D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, Says Teacher Unions Are the ‘Only Thing Standing in the Way’ of Progress

Education Secretary Betsy Devos celebrated school choice and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Wednesday despite a federal analysis showing that low-income students who used vouchers to attend private schools in the nation’s capital under the program showed significantly lower math scores after two years.

“Naturally there have been lots and lots of surveys and different studies done, both on the D.C. program as well as choice programs across the country and everybody wants to constantly refer to the one where students especially in math, showed a little dip after their first two years. Well think about it, if a kid is struggling in [a] school to which they are assigned, they change schools and start something new. Anytime we change anything, it takes a little while to get up to speed,” Devos said in a discussion with Kay Coles James, president of The Heritage Foundation, celebrating the program’s 15th anniversary.

The OSP, also called vouchers, offers scholarships to low-income children in Washington, D.C., to attend a participating private school of their choice. It is funded under the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, and is the only federally-funded voucher program in the country. It was enacted by Congress as part of a three-sector approach encompassing traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools to improve educational outcomes in the district.

Under the program, equal funds are allocated to support traditional public schools, public charter schools, and opportunity scholarships. The OSP ensures that low-income families have the same opportunities as more affluent families to choose among public schools, charter schools and quality private schools. Some 91 percent of participating children are African-American and Hispanic, and the average income for participating families is less than $24,000 per year, the program’s website says.

“All of the studies that have been longitudinal in nature and for students that have been in the program or in choices the longest period of time, they continue to show growth, year over year over year, and I think that is the most important thing in the long run. The preponderance of evidence is really clear — that choice ultimately works for students and works for families and there is clear and convincing evidence that there is too many kids across this country that don’t have the chance to be in the right schools and the right fit,” Devos, who is currently recovering from a pelvis fracture, said.

According to The Heritage Foundation, more than 1,650 children currently use OSP scholarships to pay tuition at participating private schools across the city.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair