District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program
November 07, 2007
Government Accountability Office
We already know about this study, which was leaked to (and misconstrued by) the Washington Post and lots of others. This latest version is the actual, final report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), complete with comments from both the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The study primarily highlights problems with WSF's administration of the federally funded Opportunity Scholarship Program, aka D.C. voucher program. For example, the report alleges that WSF didn't create accounting and bookkeeping procedures to keep track of scholarship funds. WSF also had high staff turnover and, supposedly, failed to implement policies and procedures to ensure that scholarships were administered correctly. GAO also raises questions about parental access to information about the scholarships and the quality of participating private schools. But as ED points out, the report doesn't mention the program's high parent satisfaction rate and its immediate impact on 1,900 DC children--arguably the most important outcomes of the program. Nor does it give enough credit for the heroic efforts of WSF to inform thousands of low-income families about the program and to counsel them on making good school choices for their children. Although the report finds many flaws with the scholarship program's current structure, it doesn't call for dismantling it. These recommendations provide a way for WSF to refine its administration. You can find the study, including rebuttals from WSF and ED, here.