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Demand in D.C. Is High for School-Voucher Test

The federally funded program receives 2,650 applications for help in paying private tuition, more than twice the number of open slots.

June 12, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Demand for access to the nation's first federally funded school voucher program has proved overwhelming in the nation's capital, in large part because of parental frustration with the city's troubled public education system.

The Washington Scholarship Fund said Friday it received 2,650 applications from District of Columbia students seeking assistance to pay tuition at private schools.

The number of applications was more than double the number of spaces available, the organization said.

Congress is providing up to $7,500 per year to help low-income students attend one of 50 private or parochial schools in the city. A total of 1,264 slots are available for the upcoming school year.

"The legislative intent was to expand the number of children exercising school choice," said Sally Sachar, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Scholarship Fund, which has a contract to administer the $14-million federally funded program.

About 1,720 of the students are eligible under residence and income guidelines. Plans call for about 1,000 scholarships to be awarded by lottery on Thursday to students who attended public schools this year or will be entering kindergarten in the fall.

A separate lottery will be held to select 200 students who are already in private schools to receive aid under the program.

Students will be tested later this month to determine which schools fit their needs and at what grade level they should be admitted.

Washington Scholarship Fund also administers a privately funded scholarship program for about 1,000 students attending schools in the district and in the suburbs in northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.

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