BOOST Program Provides 2,000 Low Income Students With Scholarships

That lets them attend private and faith-based schools.

Baltimore, Md, (KM) The BOOST program is off to a good start. The Maryland State Department of Education says the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today has awarded more than 2,000 kids  scholarships to attend non-public and faith-based schools.

MSDE spokesman Bill Reinhard says the General Assembly approved the BOOST program this year to allow children from low income families the opportunity to attend non-public schools. He says there was a lot of pressure to get the program up and running for the fall. “We had to go into a quick sort of process. The deadline was July 11th. And we started handing out the scholarships just as school began this year,” says Reinhard.

Lawmakers set aside $5-million to fund the program, and $4.3-million was handed out in scholarships, ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $4,400.  Reinhard says the program has bipartisan support.

Reinhard says most private and faith-based schools qualified. “Some of them had certain discriminatory practices that not allow them to part of the program,” he says. “But most were. And were very pleased with the program because they wanted to diversity their student body and they wanted to reach out to low income families.” Reinhard says most of the Catholic and Jewish schools took part in the BOOST program.

Many scholarship programs that allow students to attend private and faith-based schools have been criticized for taking money away from public schools. But Reinhard says that’s not the case here. “It was new money. It didn’t take money away from any of the public schools,” he says. “That is certainly what the Governor wants. Public schools received more money last year than they had the year before.”

The BOOST program was only funded for this year, and if it continues, it will need to be re-authorized by the 2017 General Assembly. “I think people see it’s was big success. So we’ll see if they decide to they keep the program as is, or maybe even give it more money,” says Reinhard.

By Kevin McManus