Friday, June 13, 2008


The possible demise of a groundbreaking federal voucher program in Washington, D.C. is one more sign of the new directions K-12 education reform might soon take as a result of the 2008 election, write Valerie Strauss and Bill Turque of The Washington Post. The aid program awards scholarships of up to $7,500 a year to 2,000 low-income D.C. children for tuition and other fees at participating private schools. Creation of the program in 2004 put the District at the forefront of the school-choice movement. At that time, the Republican-led federal government was taking steps to use the nation's capital -- with its ailing public school system -- as a showcase for educational reforms, which also included the country's most sweeping charter school law. Parents of scholarship recipients offer high praise for the program, crediting it with changing the direction of their children's lives. The program has also drawn criticism. A 2007 Government Accountability Office study found that some participating private schools lacked proper permits to operate. It has also been faulted for allowing ineligible families to receive federal funds and for failing to ensure that families selected accredited schools. Opponents said they thought the program blurred the separation of church and state because more than half of the students have enrolled in religious schools, most of them Catholic.


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