Giving Students a BOOST
Both the name and the corresponding initials of a new Maryland state initiative describe a cooperative effort to provide students with a brighter future. It is the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today scholarship program, known by the acronym BOOST and enacted this past spring, which gives a “boost” to low-income families across the state, empowering them with the equal opportunity to choose the school that is best suited for their children.
Last spring, hundreds of students from across the state, from schools representing many different faith traditions and from urban, suburban and rural areas, descended upon Annapolis to urge legislators to support programs that would expand educational opportunities and provide for an equitable expenditure of educational funds. The following month, the BOOST legislation was passed and signed into law as part of a bipartisan effort.
In the program’s first year, nearly 2,500 scholarships were awarded and accepted, worth a total of about $4.8 million. The new scholarship program served families throughout the state, with students in 20 of Maryland’s 24 counties receiving BOOST scholarships and with more than half of the scholarship recipients coming from minority families.
An important aspect of school choice programs is that they do not take away funding from public schools. For example, in the District of Columbia, the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is part of a three sector approach that provides increased funds for public, charter and non-public schools. And in Maryland, the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a record $6.4 billion state investment in the state’s K-12 public schools, while also calling for the BOOST program’s funding to increase by $2 million to a total of $7 million for the new fiscal year.
The Maryland Catholic Conference is holding a “Catholics in Annapolis 2017” gathering on February 15, offering participants an opportunity to meet with legislators and discuss key issues such as continuing and expanding the BOOST scholarship program. To join in or to stay informed, please visit the website www.mdcatholic.org/JoinCAN.
As the students who successfully lobbied legislators this past year demonstrated, together we can give a BOOST to our state’s children and help them achieve their dream of a better education.