Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What school vouchers have bought for my family

Speaking of desperate parents (and since I'll be in DC tomorrow), it's a good time to send out this story:


[The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was created in 2004 to allow students from low-income families to attend private schools. The program stopped enrolling new students after 2008, but Congress is considering legislation that would reopen it. This is one participant's story.]


I worried constantly about my daughter Jerlisa when she attended our neighborhood elementary school. I knew that I wanted a better education for her, but I didn't know how to make that happen. In 2005, I took a chance and applied to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Little did I know how much more than $7,500 I would be gaining.


I grew up in the District and attended D.C. public schools. Jerlisa started off the same way. We enrolled her at Gibbs Elementary School for kindergarten, and as the years went by she started to fall behind. There was so much going on around the school and in the classroom. Every morning, I walked with her to school, and every afternoon I waited outside the school gates to walk her home again. She got teased for that, but I was worried about the drug dealers, addicts and bullies in the neighborhood. I didn't have any other choice. I had to make sure she was safe.


When Jerlisa was in fifth grade, she became anxious and didn't want to return to school. It was clear to me she wasn't getting the help that she needed. That's when I received fliers about the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Although I didn't know everything about the OSP, I knew I had to do something different, even if it meant getting out of my comfort zone. When you're a single mother on a fixed income, sometimes simple things like filling out your name, address or income on a form can be a scary thing to do.


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