NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

D.C. Voucher Plan Approved by Senate

January 23, 2004

The Senate yesterday approved an education package that would establish an experimental school-voucher program in Washington, D.C., that will allow at least 1,700 poor D.C. public-school students to receive vouchers worth as much as $7,500 to help pay for a private-school education.

The D.C. bill provides $13 million each year for a voucher scholarship program; $13 million for teacher training and recruitment, and improving student achievement via tutoring and public school choice; and $13 million to support existing charter schools and create five new charter schools in the District. (The remaining $1 million is to pay administrative costs.)

Scholarships would be available only to children from households whose income is 185 percent of the poverty level or less. Priority would be given to students in schools identified as underachieving according to the No Child Left Behind Act. Eligible students will have to be admitted to a private school and must cover costs exceeding their vouchers. But the vouchers should provide enough funds to completely cover costs:

  • The libertarian Cato Institute, in a survey, found the median per-student cost for private elementary schools in the District is $4,500 per year.
  • Slightly more than a third of D.C. private schools have yearly tuitions of $10,000 or more.
  • According to 1998 figures from the National Center for Policy Analysis, tuition at 60 private schools in D.C. is less than $3,200, and less than $4,000 at 28 other schools.

The students who participate in the voucher program will be the lucky ones, say advocates. The District's school system has about 65,000 students total.

Source: George Archibald and Tarron Lively, "Voucher program approved for D.C.," Washington Times, January 23, 2004.


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