Maryland private school voucher program grows in second year

More than 2,600 Maryland students from low-income families received taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private or religious schools this year, the state Department of Education announced Wednesday.

Gov. Larry Hogan launched the voucher program, called Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, with $5 million in 2016.

Now in its second year, the program used an additional $1 million and provided about 200 more vouchers than in its inaugural year. Most of the students that participated in the program used the tuition assistance — in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $4,400 — to attend religious schools.

“Our administration is proud to support the BOOST Program and to expand it to provide opportunities for even more children again this year,” Hogan said in a statement. “We owe it to our kids to think more creatively when it comes to education, and we must continue to encourage innovative ideas that give Maryland families more choices to prepare our students for higher education and for the jobs of the future.”

The state education department said 964 vouchers were provided to new applicants this year, and 1,695 went to students who had also received them last year. About $6.1 million was awarded this school year to students who are eligible to receive free-or-reduced lunch.

To participate in the BOOST program, private schools must pledge not to discriminate against children based on race, color, national origin or sexual orientation.

Earlier this month, a state education panel voted to rescind the vouchers from Harford County’s Trinity Lutheran Christian School. The school’s handbook says it reserves the right to refuse admission or discontinue the enrollment of any student “who is living in, condoning or practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principals of the school.”

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