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D.C. VOUCHER PROGRAM UNABLE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF AREA SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

This fall, about 1,200 low-income Washington, D.C., students will receive grants of up to $7,500 toward tuition at private schools. However, not all applicants received awards. In fact, only 296 slots were available for the 540 public school students who applied from grades six through twelve. For grades in which applicants exceed available spaces, voucher recipients were selected through a lottery.

High school students who received vouchers through the program can use their award at one of the following high schools: Academy for Ideal Education, Archbishop Carroll High School, Dupont Park Adventist School, Georgetown Visitation School, Gonzaga College High School, Sidwell Friends School, St. Anselm’s Abbey School, and St. John’s College High School. Because these were the only schools that had available space and were willing to accept randomly assigned students with vouchers, only ninety-five high school students received vouchers through the program. While tuition and fees at many of the participating private high schools are higher than the $7,500 grant, students can work with the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit organization running the program, to try to obtain the additional funds they will need through individual, foundation, and corporate sources.

When the voucher legislation was passed last fall, Congress provided enough money for at least 1,600 students to receive scholarships in the first year of the program. The program received 1,721 applicants, but 521 students were already enrolled in private schools. While students in private schools are eligible for the vouchers, they must meet certain guidelines to receive them. In the end, the Washington Scholarship Fund decided to award only 200 scholarships to students in private schools.

According to Sally J. Sachar, president and chief executive of the Washington Scholarship Fund, no more than two-thirds of the available voucher money will be distributed this year. The remaining funds will be rolled over to next year and will provide an estimated 500 to 900 additional vouchers next fall.

Related D.C. School News

 

Congress has placed a temporary hold on $10.6 million that was pledged to D.C. Public Schools to “complement the new federally funded school voucher program, saying a proposed school spending plan is unacceptable,” according to the Washington Post. According to a letter signed by four key members of Congress, the money will be released to the next superintendent as part of a “reserve fund,” with no strings attached.

Earlier this month, the District school board voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Carl A. Cohn to become the city’s next superintendent. However, late last week, Cohn, who served as superintendent of schools in Long Beach, California, for a decade, abruptly withdrew from consideration and left city officials without a viable contender for superintendent.

 

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