New School Voucher Program Sets Hopeful Trend for National Model

Seventy-five percent of the students awarded scholarships under the new Washington, DC, voucher program are attending school this week.

The Washington Scholarship Fund has placed 1,017 children in 53 private and parochial schools across the District of Columbia for the 2004-2005 school year. In order to meet the requirements for the voucher program, children must live in the District and have a family income no higher than 185 percent of the poverty level.

Jennifer Brown, chief program officer for the Washington Scholarship Fund, says there is a high demand for better educational options in the District.

“We had such a short period of time to get going,” she explains. “We had five months to get this program up and running.” But during that short time frame, excitement about the program intensified.

“Everyone has been so supportive,” Brown continues. “The families have been amazing, the Department of Education has been incredibly supportive, as has the mayor's office, and all of the teams have really come together to support the families in Washington — and the families have really responded.”

As Brown explains, poor families across the District are embracing the voucher program. “We are working with families to help them buy uniforms [and] get their books,” she says. “They are calling with questions, and they are just so excited.”

Brown says she is thrilled by the overwhelming response — and the reactions of the recipients and their families. “We've had families drop the phone and start screaming through the house with excitement when they get that phone call that they've gotten a scholarship,” she says. “So many of them feel so honored and proud of themselves for all the work they've put in, and for their children and the work they're going to do.”

Under the program, families are awarded up to $7,500 per child to cover tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. Voucher proponents in Congress and the Bush administration hope the DC program will add more momentum to the growing school-choice movement nationwide.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press).

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