President Obama has relented in his opposition to a scholarship program in Washington, D.C., that allows poor students to escape failing public schools by providing vouchers that fund attendance at charter and private schools.
"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," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement today. "I'm pleased that an agreement has been reached to expand the program, consistent with the law already on the books.
Ninety-one percent of the District students who participate in the scholarship program graduate from high school, and yet the Senate Democrats voted in 2009, at the behest of the National Education Association teachers' union, to bar new students from entering the program.
House Republicans succeeded in reauthorizing the scholarship program in 2011, but the president chose not to fund the program in his most recent budget request. That decision threatened 1,200 students who applied for scholarships this year.
"This program provides a lifeline to many needy children," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement celebrating today's announcement. Obama's reversal came after Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats, co-authored a letter with Boehner telling the president they were "very disappointed" with his decision to cut the program.
Today's announcement provides adequate funding for the program and removes a cap on enrollment in the program.