The new Maryland program Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, public funding assistance for students attending private schools, was launched with $5 million in the current budget. Governor Hogan plans to double that funding, which seems to be triggering controversy about funding priorities among education stakeholders.
More than 500 public school students in Maryland were able to attend private schools this year through a controversial new program that offers state grants of up to $4,400 to help defray tuition costs, state education officials say.
But most students helped by the program — more than 1,900 — used the money to remain in private schools where they were already enrolled. The data is likely to be used as ammunition by opponents of the program, who argue it isn’t meeting its stated objective of helping low-income students leave underperforming public schools.
Whether the program is labeled as scholarships or vouchers, it meshes with national attention on similar programs at the federal level.
Now the legislature must decide whether to keep the program or even expand it as Hogan has proposed, growing it to $10 million over the next three years. The debate will gear up in the General Assembly just as Betsy DeVos, a champion of vouchers, is expected to be confirmed as the next U.S. secretary of education. DeVos and President-elect Donald Trump would like to provide federal dollars for vouchers.