The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

Advancing Milton and Rose D. Friedman's Vision of School Choice for All Children

District Of Columbia - Opportunity Scholarship Program

Enacted 2004 • Launched 2004 • Voucher

The District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program provides vouchers to low-income students. Overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the program is funded separately from D.C. public and charter schools. It is authorized through 2016, with $20 million in total available funding.

Latest Stats (2012-13)

  • Students participating: 1,638
  • Schools participating: 46
  • Average voucher value: $8,483 (2011-12)

Program Details

Student Funding
Vouchers are worth up to $8,256 for K-8 students and $12,385 for students in grades 9-12. Those amounts rise with the Consumer Price Index. Vouchers first pay for tuition, with any leftover amount available for certain qualified fees that schools may require.

Student Eligibility
Families must be current D.C. residents. Additionally, families must either receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or earn no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level when they enter the program ($43,568 for a family of four in 2013-14). Students may continue to receive vouchers in later years if their household income does not rise above 300 percent of the poverty level. Students are given priority if they come from public schools in need of improvement, or if they or their siblings already are participating in the program. They may use vouchers only to attend private schools located in D.C.

Legal Developments
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.

Rules & Regulations
• Income Limit: 185 percent x poverty (300 percent x poverty to remain eligible year-to-year)
• Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
• Geographic Limit: District (D.C.)
• Enrollment Cap: None (limited to $20 million total)
• Voucher Cap: $8,256 (K-8) / $12,385 (9-12)
• Testing Mandates: Nationally recognized norm-referenced tests

Governing Statutes
House Resolution 2673, 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act; House Resolution 1105, 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act; House Resolution 471, 2011 Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act

Friedman Contact
Doran Moreland |

Related Research

10/30/2014 The School Starter Checklist: Meeting the Private Education Regulations in States with School Choice
9/30/2014 The School Voucher Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?
4/29/2014 Sector Switchers: Why Catholic Schools Convert to Charters and What Happens Next
6/5/2012 The Greenfield School Revolution and School Choice
7/28/2009 Fork in the Road: Where Does the District go in K-12 Education?
6/16/2008 The Best Studies Show that Vouchers Work
2/5/2008 Grading School Choice: Evaluating School Choice Programs by the Friedman Gold Standard
1/1/2006 Spreading Freedom and Saving Money: The Fiscal Impact of the D.C. Voucher Program
10/1/2005 Using School Choice: Analyzing How Parents Access Educational Freedom
1/1/2003 Grading Vouchers: Ranking America’s School Choice Programs

Related News

9/30/2014 New report shows school vouchers saved $1.7 billion during first two decades
4/29/2014 Study: Catholic schools "switching" to charters serve more students, minorities
3/12/2014 National Review Online | Choosing to Learn
1/23/2014 U.S. voucher, school choice enrollment reaches record high
8/15/2013 Two-Minute Talk with Lindsey Burke
8/15/2013 Sharing your story in “The ABCs” can be as easy as one, two, three
1/23/2013 “The ABCs of School Choice,” 2013 Edition, Now Available
7/27/2012 Enlow | Friedman Would Oppose Bailouts, Obamacare
6/27/2012 Wall Street Journal | Class Struggle
6/22/2012 Fox News | Good News on Education, for Once, from Washington
6/18/2012 Washington Times | White House Relents on D.C. School Voucher Bill
6/5/2012 Limited Choice Doesn’t Support New School Models, Study Finds
5/30/2012 Enlow | Vouchers Will Tear Down the 'Berlin Wall' of Education
4/12/2012 Wall Street Journal | School Vouchers Gain Ground
2/3/2012 Atlantic | Why Market Forces Are Good for Education
10/18/2011 The Reporter | In Support of Corbett’s Educational Reform Package
8/3/2011 EducationNext | No Matter How You Ask the Question
7/5/2011 Wall Street Journal | The Year of School Choice
5/6/2011 NPR | School Voucher Debate Heats Back Up
5/3/2011 Wall Street Journal | The Evidence Is In: School Vouchers Work
4/19/2011 USA Today | Why School Vouchers are Worth a Shot
4/15/2011 New York Times | Budget Deal Fuels Revival of School Vouchers
1/22/2011 Orlando Sentinel | Gov. Rick Scott's school-voucher push faces legal hurdles

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