The Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Fund was approved for $5 million without any public hearing. Every attempt to pass the bill through the General Assembly failed. Meanwhile, Maryland public schools need approximately an additional $3 billion in order to be properly funded, according to leading experts. Countless stories of Maryland public school teachers purchasing supplies for their classrooms with their own personal money exists due to this shortfall. Governor Hogan has proposed expanding this program without further vetting.
AFT-Maryland opposes the privatization of public education through education voucher programs.
There is no fiscal accountability on how public money is spent via BOOST Fund vouchers. There is no income verification to ensure that the Maryland students and families who most need the financial help are benefitting from the program.
Additionally, private schools do not have to administer the same standardized tests as public schools, hampering the ability to determine a student’s progress and if spending public money on private schools is benefiting these children.
About four out of every five students who received BOOST voucher funds to attend private schools already attended private schools. This suggests the program isn’t providing opportunities to deserving Maryland public school students, but instead uses public money to allow students already attending private school to continue to do so via public funds.
The BOOST voucher program illustrates precisely how this issue of “choice” is simply a matter of privilege for some families versus others. It does not, nor cannot, adequately address questions of how families living in extreme poverty can fairly navigate the application process, or even how to get students to these distant private schools without school buses. It again provides economic dollars to families who already enjoy these privileges at the expense of those who do not.
A number of the schools receiving public funds through this program do not have anti-discrimination protections to students who are enrolled in the school. Once a student is accepted into the school there are no anti-discrimination clauses to protect the student from being expelled. Those students sent back to Maryland public schools are the responsibility of the local school district without the financial support of state funding that has already been allocated to the private school for that student.
The budget language cites that schools can not discriminate during the admissions process on the grounds of color, race, country of origin, or sexual orientation. However, there is no language protecting students once they are enrolled from being expelled due to one of those reasons.
AFT-Maryland opposes the privatization of public education through education voucher programs. The BOOST Fund is bad for Maryland students, families, and public schools.
For more information, contact Todd Reynolds, Political Coordinator, AFT-Maryland, at firstname.lastname@example.org.