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Program on Vouchers Draws Minority Support

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Just wanted to add this to the article so everyone knows'.

http://www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/3specpop.htm <~~~~~~~~ educational grants directory. It's extensive.


Add to that www.grants.gov and it's all right here at D.C. Pages.


For the kids who read these posts? Before you decide to get into politics, do us adults a favor first and get an education first, THEN if you want to get into politics later you can do so.


By the way; those links I posted in here are GOOD for US ADULTS as well.


Program on Vouchers Draws Minority Support

April 6, 2006


Diana Jean Schemo

The New York Times


WASHINGTON, April 5 — As a student at Shaw Junior High School here, Amie Fuwa strained to shut out the distractions of friends cutting up. She struggled through math, and used photocopies or the library when textbooks were scarce.


Now Amie, 14, a child of immigrants from Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, attends Archbishop Carroll High School, a Catholic school near a verdant hill of churches nicknamed the Little Vatican. When algebra confounds Amie, her teacher stays with her after school to help, and a mentor keeps her on course.


"It's a lot of people behind my back now," Amie said.


Before, she said, she "felt like it didn't really matter to different people I know, like my teachers, if I failed."


Amie is one of about 1,700 low-income, mostly minority students in Washington who at taxpayer expense are attending 58 private and parochial schools through the nation's first federal voucher program, now in its second year.


Last year, parents appeared lukewarm toward the program, which was put in place by Congressional Republicans as a five-year pilot program, But this year, it is attracting more participation, illustrating how school-choice programs are winning over minority parents, traditionally a Democratic constituency.


Washington's African-American mayor, Anthony A. Williams, joined Republicans in supporting the program, prompted in part by a concession from Congress that pumped more money into public and charter schools. In doing so, Mr. Williams ignored the ire of fellow Democrats, labor unions and advocates of public schools.


"As mayor, if I can't get the city together, people move out," said Mr. Williams, who attended Catholic schools as a child. "If I can't get the schools together, why should there be a barrier programmatically to people exercising their choice and moving their children out?"


School-choice programs have fervent opponents, and here, public school officials worry that the voucher program will diminish the importance of the neighborhood school, though the program serves only a relative few of the district's 58,000 students. National critics of school choice like Reg Weaver, president of the country's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, accused voucher supporters of "exploiting the frustration of these minority parents to push for a political agenda" intended to undermine public schools.


"They're really about subsidizing private schools, not about improving schools for all children," Mr. Weaver said in an interview.


But the interest in school choice is strong, even without consistent evidence that low-income children do better in charter or private schools. The largest one-time study of student achievement recently compared math scores of pupils from similar backgrounds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and found neither private school nor charter students doing better than those in public schools.


In the mostly minority Dayton, Ohio, school district, for example, 28 percent of schoolchildren have opted out of public schools in favor of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated.


In Houston, 12 percent have done the same; in Oakland, Calif., 9 percent of public school children attend charter schools. In New York City, 12,000 children, 1.2 percent of the school population, attend charter schools, but the number of such schools is capped.


In Washington, in addition to those children opting for private schools, many others are flocking to charter schools, which have siphoned off about 25 percent of children, and $37 million in revenue this year alone.


The Washington program is being watched closely because when Congress must tackle reauthorizing President Bush's signature education law, No Child Left Behind, in 2007, the program could become a model for Republican efforts to extend vouchers nationally. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Wednesday in an appearance in New York City that the Bush administration wanted "to help spread this experiment."


As part of the pilot program here, researchers will compare the academic progress of students who won vouchers through lottery drawings with those who tried but failed.


"There is a lot at stake," said Joseph P. Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College. "It's an issue that's not going to go away."


For minority parents in Washington, the implications for national policy are distant ripples. For them, and for their children, vouchers offer a way out of one of the nation's most dysfunctional public school systems, and open a window into worlds that few would otherwise know.


Although white children do better here than in any state, the odds appear stacked heavily against the 85 percent of students in public schools who are black. Their reading and math skills are among the poorest of blacks in any city or state, with two in three fourth graders, and more than half the eighth graders, lacking even basic reading skills, according to the national assessment.


Latinos do not fare much better; 63 percent lack basic reading skills in the fourth grade; 41 percent are still missing them by eighth grade.


More than half of the students in the program use the vouchers to attend religious schools, mostly Catholic. Among secular schools, Rock Creek International School, a language-immersion school that teaches French, Spanish and Arabic, has been the most generous in subsidizing students.


In accepting 29 students this year, officials said Rock Creek committed itself to helping the children fit into a middle and upper-class environment. Last year, the school raised enough donations for all the voucher students who wanted to go to join class trips to Greece, Costa Rica and Qatar, said Josh Schmidt, the admissions director.


Like many other voucher students, Breanna Walton, 8, rises before dawn for the long bus ride from Northeast Washington, "amongst the crime and drugs and all that," in the words of her mother, April Cole Walton, to Rock Creek International, near Georgetown University. There, she learns Spanish with the children of lawyers and diplomats.


Ms. Walton said that her neighborhood school "has broken down," and that she would have done just about anything to keep Breanna from going there. "Every child here should be able to say I'm going to set my sights high," she said. "I refuse to let my child be cheated."


Patricia William, a single mother, said that at first she liked her son Fransoir's public school, John Quincy Adams Elementary School, a tall sprawling building in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Teachers seemed good, but overwhelmed. It was other parents, not teachers, Ms. William said, who told her that Fransoir was hyperactive. "I was not getting quality information from them on time," she said. "For some reason, it was not working."


Fransoir is one of 62 students with vouchers attending Sacred Heart Elementary, a Catholic school of 210 students, where he learns prayers along with five-digit multiplication and long division. He takes medication for his hyperactivity. Last year, he teamed up with another child to research the sinking of the Titanic. This year, he is interested in reptiles. Ms. William said her son today has nothing in common with the boy who once lay on the floor, turning in circles like a clock wound too tight. Now she is learning from him, about more than just math or reading or a sinking ship.


"All the effort he's making every night makes me want to sit with him and study," said Ms. William, a high-school dropout. "I'm learning academically, but also about making an effort."


A thoughtful, small boy, Fransoir, 9, is impatient to grow up. In his classroom recently, he talked about his new passion, dinosaurs, explaining how the triceratops, a small dinosaur with three horns — "like a triangle has three sides," he said — would win a fight with the bigger Tyrannosaurus rex.


"The first time the T. rex attacks, the triceratops ducks," Fransoir said. "Then the second time, when the T. rex runs at him again, the triceratops picks up his head and sticks him with his horns."


In traditional schools, the competition from vouchers and charters is felt keenly, as principals struggle to retain not just enrollment, but also the role of the neighborhood school.


At Turner Elementary School in the hard-edged Anacostia neighborhood, Marcia Parker, the principal, picked up candy wrappers from the stairwells as she toured classrooms equipped with computers and books. She insisted that private and charter schools had nothing on Turner. Four students had returned from charters this year, some expelled for misbehavior, she said.


"We're about educating everybody," Ms. Parker said, dismissing vouchers and charters as "a way of raping the public schools of students and resources."


At Fransoir's old school, Adams Elementary, the principal, Pedro A. Cartagena, said that about 70 students had left for charters, and with just 200 students remaining, Adams was one of many public schools designated an "underutilized school" at risk of being closed. To survive, Dr. Cartagena said he was exploring the possibility of teaming up with a popular dual-language public elementary school, the Oyster School, to transform Adams into a dual-language middle school.


But the pressure of competition is inescapable. In one sixth-grade classroom, two of six students said they would probably go to charter schools next year, unless Adams could get its seventh grade started.


"I'll probably go to Washington Latin," said Jhontelle Johnson, setting her sights on a new charter school opening in August. If not, she said, "I'd probably be home-schooled."


A teacher's aide, Sheonna Griffin, looked askance. "You don't like public schools?" she asked the child.


Jhontelle turned back, her young eyes flashing. "You can't make me go," she said.

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