NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 28, 2006

School choice programs have been designed to target specific populations of students, but a new program in Maryland called opportunity scholarships will help foster care children, says Dan Lips of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

With 523,000 children in foster care across the United States and 11,500 of them in Maryland, they represent the most at-risk population in our society. They face a number of unique disadvantages and require specially tailored assistance during the school years and with the difficult transition from youth to adulthood, says Lips.

  • One key factor that determines whether a foster child will achieve a successful transition is the quality of primary and secondary education he or she receives; unfortunately, too many foster children receive a substandard education.
  • Compared to the general population, foster children have lower scores on standardized tests and higher absenteeism, tardiness, truancy and dropout rates.

However, the opportunity scholarship program could help close the gap, says Lips:

  • The program would offer $8,000 apiece to the estimated 11,500 children currently in foster care in Maryland.
  • It would be administered at no additional cost to taxpayers and may even reduce taxpayer costs over time by empowering foster children with the necessary skills to gain independence as adults, rather than remain dependent on state services.
  • Additionally, school choice policies like the opportunity scholarship program have been found to boost student outcomes on test scores and increase family satisfaction with their child's education experience.

Moreover, opportunity scholarships could address some of the common problems plaguing the education experience of foster care children, such as instability and persistent low expectations, says Lips.

Furthermore, it would encourage schools to tailor education services to the unique needs of foster care children, says Lips.

Source: Dan Lips, "School Choice For Maryland's Foster Care Children: Fostering Stability, Satisfaction, and Achievement," Maryland Public Policy Institute, October 11, 2005.

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