Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Federal Program on Vouchers Draws Strong Minority Support

The NYT reports:

Amie is one of about 1,700 low-income, mostly minority students in Washington who at taxpayer expense are attending 58 private and parochial schools through the nation's first federal voucher program, now in its second year.

Last year, parents appeared lukewarm toward the program, which was put in place by Congressional Republicans as a five-year pilot program, But this year, it is attracting more participation, illustrating how school-choice programs are winning over minority parents, traditionally a Democratic constituency.

But the interest in school choice is strong, even without consistent evidence that low-income children do better in charter or private schools. The largest one-time study of student achievement recently compared math scores of pupils from similar backgrounds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and found neither private school nor charter students doing better than those in public schools.

In the mostly minority Dayton, Ohio, school district, for example, 28 percent of schoolchildren have opted out of public schools in favor of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated.

In Houston, 12 percent have done the same; in Oakland, Calif., 9 percent of public school children attend charter schools. In New York City, 12,000 children, 1.2 percent of the school population, attend charter schools, but the number of such schools is capped.

In Washington, in addition to those children opting for private schools, many others are flocking to charter schools, which have siphoned off about 25 percent of children, and $37 million in revenue this year alone.

The Washington program is being watched closely because when Congress must tackle reauthorizing President Bush's signature education law, No Child Left Behind, in 2007, the program could become a model for Republican efforts to extend vouchers nationally. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Wednesday in an appearance in New York City that the Bush administration wanted "to help spread this experiment." Read it all

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