A bill to revive the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program could get a vote on the House floor as early as next week.
The measure — a top priority of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — is tentatively scheduled for a vote next Wednesday, depending on what other bills get added to the agenda, according to the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Created in 2004 by Boehner and a handful of other lawmakers, the program provides money for low-income District students to attend private schools. Many scholarship recipients have used the funds to attend D.C. Catholic schools, which Boehner has long supported. Democrats moved to close the program to new entrants in 2009, and only students who already had scholarships continue to receive them now.
Boehner’s bill would reopen the program to new recipients, offering them up to $8,000 a year for elementary school and $12,000 for high school. The measure would authorize a total of $60 million a year over the next five years, with one-third of the money going to private school vouchers, one-third for D.C. charter schools and one-third for public schools.
The scholarship program has divided local leaders. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has spoken out strongly against it, and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) is also opposed. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) supports the program, as do former mayors Anthony Williams (D) and Marion Barry (D).
Though the bill is likely to pass in the House, it probably won’t get a standalone vote in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are opposed. But it will be a factor in broader education reform negotiations between Congress and the White House.