Washington, DC’s school voucher program is off to a slow start. While Congress approved funding for 1,600 private school scholarships worth up to $7,500, only 1,200 low-income children will receive the vouchers in the fall. About 200 already attend private schools; they’re eligible because their families meet income guidelines. Scholarship Fund officials said more students would have applied if there’d been more time to publicize the program.
Officials said yesterday that they received 1,200 applications from eligible public school students and 521 from eligible children already in private school. Although organizers could have filled the program by accepting all the private school students who applied, Sachar said her group decided — in consultation with the mayor’s office and the U.S. Department of Education — to provide grants to only about 200 private school children.
. . . The small number of families taking advantage of the voucher program is a sharp contrast with the large number who have left the regular public school system in recent years to attend public charter schools, which now enroll about 13,700 students. In interviews before the voucher application deadline, several parents said they were only vaguely aware of the program and unfamiliar with the rules for applying.
Some students were denied vouchers because private school slots are limited in middle and high school. Fifty private schools are accepting vouchers: 30 percent are non-sectarian, 44 percent are parochial and 26 percent are non-Catholic religious schools.