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Public Statements

Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BOEHNER. Let me thank my colleague for yielding and let me start by also thanking him and the members of the Government Reform Committee for their work on this bill. Also I want to thank our 50 cosponsors and all the Members on both sides of the aisle who are standing with us today. I also appreciate the efforts of our colleagues in the Senate, particularly Senator Joe Lieberman, who are working on similar legislation.

Today, the House will have the opportunity to do something special for the future of our country. I think just about every Member would agree that we have got to do everything we can to help our education system. Americans are concerned that their children won't be able to have the same blessings that they have had, and if we want to protect the American Dream, there is no substitute for a quality education.

My view has always been that education reform starts with giving children a way out of our most underachieving public schools. Of course, that doesn't mean that we abandon those schools. It means we take some of the pressure off of them while they work to turn themselves around.

So we came together here about 7 years ago and said let's try something different. Instead of just throwing money at the problem, let's empower parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for them. We wouldn't deny any school money that they had already been receiving. We would be injecting freedom and competition into a system that is caught up in the status quo.

We had a strong bipartisan coalition, including Anthony Williams, who was the Mayor here at the time, and Dick Armey, who for years led this fight in the House, paving the way for this program. He and I started working together on school choice in the early nineties when we served on the Education and Labor Committee together. We said let's give kids in our capital city a real chance at success and a real shot at the American Dream that they don't have. We thought to ourselves, what do we have to be afraid of? Well, as it turned out, there was nothing that we needed to be afraid of.

Thousands of families have taken advantage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, and there is strong evidence that it is both effective and cost-effective. Unfortunately, the education establishment in our country sees this Opportunity Scholarship Program as a threat. In reality, this is an opportunity to raise the bar, because competition makes everybody better. I think if you look beyond the talking points and focus on the facts, you will find that the D.C. program provides a model that can work in other communities around our Nation.

Now, I think all of you know that this issue is important to me, but I will tell you this: This is not about me. I am proud to say that I have supported the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the get-go, but I am even more proud of the fact that I had nothing to do with its success. For that, we can thank the students and parents who have become more than the program's beneficiaries--they are its greatest ambassadors.

In recent days, I have received letters from many of them asking Congress to do the right thing, and I will be submitting some of those for the Record. You see, they know what it was like before. They remember living just blocks from great schools, but feeling miles away from them, and all they did was ask us to have a chance to have the same kind of education that kids down the street were getting. There is no controversial idea here. It is the American way.

So if we are serious about bipartisan education reform, we should start by saving this successful bipartisan program that has helped so many underprivileged children here in D.C. get a chance at a quality education. I urge the House to support and save this important program.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, let me start out by thanking the members of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee for their work on this bill. Thank you also to our 50 cosponsors and all the members on both sides who are standing with us today. I appreciate the efforts of our colleagues in the Senate--particularly JOE LIEBERMAN--who are working on similar legislation.

Today, the House will have the opportunity to do something special for the future of our country. I think just about every member would agree we have work to do when it comes to our education system.

Americans are concerned that their children won't come to know the same blessings they have. And if we want to protect the American Dream, there's no substitute for a quality education.

My view's always been, education reform starts with giving children in need a way out of our most underachieving public schools. Of course, that doesn't mean we abandon those schools. It means we take some of the pressure off of them while they work to turn themselves around.

So we came together here about seven years ago and said, let's try something different. Instead of just throwing more money at the problem, let's empower parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children. We wouldn't deny any school money they would already be receiving--we would just be injecting freedom and competition into a system caught up in the status quo.

We had a strong bipartisan coalition, including: Anthony Williams, our mayor here at the time; and Dick Armey, who for years led this fight in the House, paving the way for this program. We started working together on school choice in the early 1990s when we served on the Ed & Labor Committee.

We said, let's give these kids in our capital city a real chance at success and a real shot at the American Dream that they do not have. What do we have to be afraid of? Nothing, as it turned out. Thousands of families have taken advantage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. There's strong evidence that it has been both effective and cost-effective.

Unfortunately, the education establishment in our country sees the Opportunity Scholarship Program as a threat. In reality, this is an opportunity to raise the bar. Competition makes everyone better.

I think if you look beyond the talking points and focus on the facts, you'll find that the D.C. program provides a model that can work well in other communities around the nation.

Now, this issue is important to me--but it's not about me. I'm proud to say I've supported the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the get-go, but I'm even more proud of the fact I had nothing to do with its success. For that, we can thank the students and the parents who have become more than just the program's beneficiaries--they are its greatest ambassadors.

In recent days, I've received letters from many of them asking their Congress to do the right thing, I'll be submitting some of those for the record.

You see, they know what it was like before. They remember living just blocks from these great schools, but feeling miles away from them. All they ask us to do is help ensure others get the same chance they've had. That's no controversial idea--it's just the American way.

So if we're serious about bipartisan education reform, we should start by saving this successful, bipartisan program that has helped so many underprivileged children get a quality education.

I urge the House to support this measure to save and renew the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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