D.C. voucher program participants make case for its extension

Several supporters of Washington, D.C.'s school voucher program were called to testify Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. The committee is considering a bill that would extend the program for an additional five years.

Among those testifying were a student, a parent and a school administrator all involved in the program, which is technically known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. All three are involved with three separate schools.

Linda Cruz Catalan is a high school student who uses a scholarship to attend the Field School. She told the few senators in attendance that she comes from a low-income, hard-working family and feels "extremely lucky" to be in the program. "Since 2004, there have been 16,000 children that have applied for this opportunity in the Washington, D.C., area, and I was one of the 6,100 extremely grateful and lucky kids to receive it." Cruz Catalan went to a public K-8 school and knows many other low-income students who would have benefitted from the same scholarship opportunity. "I saw that a lot of these kids had multiple problems, meaning that a large public high school wouldn't be beneficial for them at all."

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Gary Jones also testified. Jones' daughter uses a scholarship to attend St. Thomas More Catholic Academy. His youngest daughter was unable to receive a scholarship, so Jones took a second job so he could pay the $6,000 a year out of pocket for both his daughters to attend. Jones' five children have attended public, charter, and private schools in Washington.

"By far, we saw the greatest level of achievement for our children when we had them in private schools," Jones said. "Charters did not work for my children, while DCPS was mediocre at best."

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